Cameron Wigmore, Green Party Member: Letter - Living Room plans worry south end residents

July 8, 2008

Letter - Living Room plans worry south end residents

The following is a letter I've written to the local papers about VIHAs plan to couple transitional housing with a failed addictions program. I have some experience working in this area.

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VIHA's Living Room attempts appear disorganized and remind some south end residents of a salesperson trying to remarket the same old failed product. Unfortunately, we are the ones who have been paying for VIHA’s learning curve.

The past incarnations of the Living Room, as hard as they were to manage, were in commercial areas. Now they want to put it in the middle of a residential neighborhood, adjacent to transition housing for those trying to get away from the street. Is there some study showing this might actually work, or was this decision simply motivated by dollars and cents?

At the south end community meeting, a VIHA spokesperson said, “we see it as a good thing to have the Living Room coupled with the residence.” No study was offered to back that up. Does the VIHA operate on gut feeling and intuition alone? I thought these services were supposed to be spread throughout the city. In fact there are studies showing that over concentration of these services can have a negative effect.

Because we’re not getting any answers about how our safety will be ensured or protected, I’m uneasy about this planned project. The list of rules we were given by VIHA were both naive and directly solely to the inside of the building.

If I were asked to place money on this venture as a positive thing for our community and those on the street, I think I’d keep my wallet in my pocket. On the other hand, if I was asked to invest in this as a real estate venture, this might be profitable. Maybe that’s where VIHA's heart is at.

Cameron Wigmore
Nanaimo, BC


Cameron W said...

News coverage:

social services frustrates neighbours

drop-in centre is a tough sell

homeless hotel draws criticism

Cameron W said...


They're keeping the transitional housing and dropping the drop-in center. Great news for the future tenants of this building who will be trying to stay clean!

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CMHA backtracks on plan for homeless drop-in centre

The Canadian Mental Health Association is backing away from a contentious plan to set up a homeless drop-in centre at the old Balmoral Hotel on Haliburton Street after residents in the area spent the past week arguing against the proposal.

Representatives from the city, the business community and the Vancouver Island Health Authority met Wednesday afternoon to discuss CMHA's plan to transform the Balmoral into a service hub for people with mental illness. The project, announced last week, called for a complete renovation of the 20 occupied rooms on the second and third floors of the building and a frozen meal program that will teach clients how to prepare meals.

Cameron W said...

More news:

I'm pleased with this development.

Some kind of service makes sense, but the Living Room model was not appropriate for coupling with a transitional residence. I hope this new service isn't as likely as the Living Room to draw addicts to a residence where people are trying to get clean and get off the street.

The Living Room services are needed in this city, and I'm hopeful that another location will be found.