The official opening of The Bridge Foundation’s women’s shelter in West Bay has been cancelled after planning concerns were raised on the eve of the event.
The residence was set to be officially opened by Governor Helen Kilpatrick on Thursday morning, but the event was called off on Wednesday afternoon after residents expressed concerns about having a halfway house in the area and believed the one-story house had been incorrectly zoned.
The shelter would provide transitional housing for six women recovering from drug and or alcohol addiction.
The women’s shelter is a milestone for the organization that currently operates a six-bed male residence, and has begun construction to extend the accommodation to 11 men by mid-summer.
Head of the Governor’s Office Gary Benham said the Governor was unable to attend the event and that the organization had cancelled it, but would not comment further.
The Bridge Foundation operating manager Bud Volinsky said the organization did not file for a change of zoning because they believed it had not been a requirement.
“The men’s facility is zoned residential, low-density. It didn’t have to be changed to institutional,” Mr. Volinsky said. “It’s our hope that this is just a postponement and not a cancellation.”
He said the organization would wait to hear from planning officers to see what would now be required.
“Apparently, there is a petition going around the neighborhood. I think people have some misconceptions about what we are trying to do, working with the government, working with Caymanians, to reduce crime,” Mr. Volinsky said.
“We are very disappointed that the opening did not occur,” he added.
The Bridge Foundation operates safe and sober transitional housing for both men and women for up to six months and requires they complete the 12-step counseling program.
“We have a success rate of 44 percent, which beats the national average,” Mr. Volinsky said.
“This is a halfway house and a halfway house is not is not a treatment facility. It’s a transition from treatment or incarceration back into the community. We don’t have a 100 percent success rate. We get some people who are full of enthusiasm, but their addiction has not been fully addressed,” he added.
Last year, eight out of 18 residents achieved their goals.
Through the Anchor House Halfway House Program, the organization offers accommodation to residents between 25 and 60 years old. The program offers support with employment, scholarships, medical insurance, financial services and education.
Mr. Volinsky said residents are encouraged to search for suitable careers, not just employment.
“Everybody comes in broke, usually owing a lot of money. They come in with a garbage bag full of clothes,” he said. “When they get their first ATM card, it’s like something they’ve never seen before, and that’s something we take for granted.”
The Bridge Foundation does not accept residents who have been convicted of a violent crime and only accepts Caymanians, status holders or permanent residents who have undergone treatment for alcohol or drug addiction.