Halfway house fights planning decision

The Bridge Foundation has appealed an enforcement notice from the Central Planning Authority requiring the rehabilitation organization to file a change of zoning application in order to continue running its West Bay women’s shelter. 

The enforcement notice requires the not-for-profit organization to change the zoning of its property from residential to institutional for the three-bedroom home that will house up to six female residents recovering from drug and/or alcohol addiction. 

The Central Planning Authority is due to consider the appeal on Wednesday. 

The Bridge Foundation works as a transitional step for women who have completed treatment. 

The enforcement notice followed backlash from Uncle Bob Road residents who want the shelter removed from the neighborhood amid concerns it lowers housing values and is unsafe for families. 

Foundation cofounder and director Charles Jennings said the organization filed an appeal against the planning board’s decision. The foundation’s shelter for men, also in West Bay, did not need a change of zoning and operates under residential zoning, he said. 

“There are proper forums for settling disputes like this and they will be followed carefully in this and all other instances,” Mr. Jennings said. “We fully understand and sympathize with our neighbors’ concerns about the halfway house; in fact, similar concerns are frequently expressed about new halfway house projects.  

“But those fears are usually based on a misconception about what a halfway house is, which often disappears when explained.” 

Mr. Jennings said the foundation’s halfway houses were subject to stringent guidelines and expectations. “Our focus is on stability and structure. Residents are subject to random drug tests, curfews and other rules governing behavior. In addition, no body who has a record of violence has been admitted,” he said. 

West Bay MLA and Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush said while he supported the organization and its work, he did not feel West Bay needed another halfway house and said somewhere like George Town would be more suitable.  

“It’s in a very quiet neighborhood, and it’s not isolated. It’s right in the midst of it,” Mr. Bush said. “While I don’t have no problem with this kind of institution, I must consider that the people in that area don’t need it there.” 

“I certainly support this kind of institution but we have to be more than careful whose lives they are going to affect with it,” he added. 

Women’s shelter resident and manager Sharlene Rogers said she felt residents at the shelter needed forgiveness, love and compassion, and an opportunity to become once again productive and positive members of the community. 

“It’s imperative that we have a support system, or systems, beginning with families, down to communities in the Cayman Islands,” Ms. Rogers said. “Recovery is extremely hard so the opportunity of having transitional housing is definitely needed.” 

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