A group of Central Saanich residents rallied Monday outside the proposed supportive housing site at 1909 Prosser Rd. to press home their concerns about the project.
Steven Manchur, who lives near the site and organized Monday’s protest, accused authorities of misinforming the public about the project. “We are just trying to make sure our community stays safe,” he said.
About a dozen people of various ages participated in the protest, which included signs expressing opposition while demanding greater transparency. Others expressed concerns that parts of Central Saanich would soon look like the homeless camps in Victoria.
Multiple vehicles driving past the site on East Saanich Road honked in support, but at least one individual stopped to express his support for more social housing.
Monday’s protest marked a visible escalation of the public’s opposition to the site, following the launch of an online petition so far signed by more than 1,200 people.
The project calls for 39 supportive units for what BC Housing describes as people at risk of homelessness in the Central Saanich region. According to a BC Housing letter shared with residents and distributed during Monday’s protest, people at risk of homelessness who need minimal supports and are ready to live independently will receive priority. BC Housing said the project responds to an urgent need and promised the project would be a good neighbour in pointing toward additional community engagement and a future committee managing relations.
Manchur acknowledged BC Housing’s outreach but added “(they) did not really consult with us about the true nature of what is happening.”
Manchur said much of the public still believes that the project will be low-income housing but will also include homeless people currently living in tents or hotels.
Manchur acknowledged the group’s opposition does not cast them in the best light.
“It makes us look terrible because that is not what we want at all,” he said. “We just know that there about 50 per cent of the people that are very deserving of this and try hard and just can’t make it. It’s those people we want. But you know there are going to be the other 50 per cent with their hand-out or with addictions or with mental problems that are just not trying. It will bring more crime to this community and possibly drug paraphernalia.”
BC Housing said in a statement last week that “(linking) all people who have experienced homelessness as contributing to property crime and vandalism is a stereotype that marginalizes people.” People who experience homelessness are as varied as any other neighbour, it read. “They may be seniors, people with disabilities, people who are employed but aren’t housed, or people who are working through mental health concerns and/or substance use. All residents in supportive housing have made a choice to work towards living a healthy, stable life.”
BC Housing said the site is already zoned for the intended use, adding the province has not exercised statutory immunity on the site in challenging the claim that the provincial government is not following due process.
When asked about the likelihood of stopping the project with work already underway, Manchur said the goal is to inform people. “I think in our best-case scenario it does get switched to low-income housing or some other form of supportive housing, even senior housing,” he said. “There is a demand for all these things. Those are all people who are deserving and trying.”
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