Angry residents have submitted a petition to relocate a halfway house in West Bay, saying they fear it places their families and property value at risk.
Those living on and around Uncle Bob Road have also expressed concerns that the women’s shelter, for those recovering from drug and or alcohol addiction, is incorrectly zoned.
The Bridge Foundation postponed the shelter’s official opening this week after a planning inspector visited the property on Wednesday.
Lisa Motta, who lives close to the shelter, said residents felt strongly about removing the accommodation from the area.
“We don’t want it in our neighborhood and we never had a say. I do not want to see crack addicts and alcoholics every evening when I come home,” Ms. Motta said.
“Everybody does deserve a chance but I think it should be in a more isolated area, where drugs are less accessible. I just want it to go away, there are many other places they can put this.”
She said she was concerned for families in the area with children and that the house would attract the wrong crowd and, as a result, would increase crime.
“The value of my house has dropped to zero. No one would want to buy property next to a halfway house,” Ms. Motta said.
The Bridge Foundation operating manager Bud Volinsky said the men’s facility, also in West Bay, had not required a change of zoning because it was six individuals who wanted to live together in an environment free of alcohol and drugs. He said the new women’s residence would operate the same way.
“The women’s residence is for women only. Our guidelines do not allow men within the fenced area except when maintaining the grounds,” he stated in a letter addressed to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“This facility adheres to the same rules of conduct, procedures, and management as our men’s facility. Thus, we regarded the transitional home for women at 11 Uncle Bob’s Road as meeting the same zoning requirements.”
Mr. Volinsky said the foundation hoped a meeting with concerned citizens would ease their fears about the location of a transitional house in the selected neighborhood.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has requested the National Drug Council conduct an evaluation of The Bridge Foundation.
Council director Joan West-Dacres said the council supported the need for halfway housing and traditional housing, as outlined in the National Anti-Drug Strategy.
“It is very important to note that during recovery, transitioning back to society (especially in small communities) is very difficult for those individuals who are struggling with addiction,” Ms. West-Dacres said.
“A halfway house can be very beneficial to long-term recovery. Halfway houses provide the opportunities of a safe and supportive environment while addressing life issues through learning and applying them in real-life situations.”
She said houses with structured programming and a good framework could only benefit communities in addressing the negative impacts of alcohol and other drugs.
Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush also weighed in on the issue Thursday during his Legislative Assembly address in response to this week’s budget, saying the halfway house should not have progressed when “they don’t even have planning permission.”
“The truth is West Bay already has three halfway houses,” Mr. Bush said. “I don’t think that we need anymore down there.”