View Royal councillors have given unanimous approval to the rezoning of the former youth detention centre to allow a therapeutic recovery community.
Mayor David Screech said councillors gave third reading to the rezoning of the facility at 94 Talcott Rd. after not a single resident at a public hearing raised concerns about the proposal. Fourth and final reading is expected to be a formality.
“We didn’t have one person speaking against,” Screech said. “We had several in favour, and out of all the correspondence we received, every one of them was in support.”
The same certainly couldn’t be said in 2016, when residents of Victoria’s tent city were moved into the detention centre. View Royal residents packed public meetings in opposition.
Called Choices, the facility was to operate for six months, but ended up remaining open for about two years due to a shortage of other housing options.
The new therapeutic recovery centre, unlike Choices, will be free of drugs and alcohol — offering a long-term recovery option to up to 50 men who are homeless or leaving custody.
Residents also won’t be coming and going, essentially staying at the facility and participating in programming.
The new facility will be run by Our Place Society, as was Choices. It is expected to open in the fall.
Don Evans, executive director of Our Place Society, has been spearheading the initiative, which is patterned after similar therapeutic communities, such as those in San Patrignano, Italy, and Baldy Hughes, in Prince George.
Evans said he was “thrilled” at the level of community support, noting that the rezoning was the last hurdle. Our Place’s outreach included community engagement, tours and mailouts.
“It paid off because people, I think, are well informed and comfortable with what we’re doing and support it,” he said.
“We don’t expect any negative effect on the community at all because it’s a closed facility and it’s abstinence based so there’s no active drug use on site.”
Residents will stay between 14 and 24 months, with the longer period offering people the time to address issues underlying their addictions in a community environment, to develop life, social and job skills, and to engage in relapse prevention, family healing and a return to a healthy lifestyle.
Clients will participate in all aspects of the community — growing their own food, cooking, cleaning and undertaking social enterprise projects such as catering or sale of products built on site.
The plan is for clients to be drawn from three areas: from the courts, as an alternative to traditional custodial sentences; from B.C. Corrections, for individuals completing custodial sentences; and from Island Health, for homeless individuals who have undergone detox and stabilization and have, perhaps, completed a short-term residential program.
Evans said having community support is crucial.
“Choices was tough because you had a fair amount of people that were opposed to it, so you were always having to manage anxieties and fears, where we don’t have that this time,” he said.
“So that’s just going to be so much easier to roll this out.”