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One thing the hundreds of people protesting the construction of a new supportive housing block in Rutland agree on is that their priority is to protect children.
As furious residents waved signs reading “Family first” and “Rutland kids matter too”, cars passing by signalled their agreement with relentless honking.
They were expressing their frustration at the BC Housing project at 130 McCurdy Road, which will offer 49 units at $375 a month and will be overseen by the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Drug use will be permitted in the building, which is expected to be completed by spring 2021.
Construction begins on Monday.
“It isn’t like me to do something like this,” Daryl Kitsul, who was protesting outside the site on Sunday afternoon with his three young children, said.
“I set up a petition as well – it’s already got over 1,100 signatures. I did it when [Mayor] Basran said ‘The time to complain is over’.
“That really sparked me to act.”
Kitsul explained his motivation in protesting was to have the facility built away from schools.
There are three schools close to the McCurdy Road site.
Kitsul, speaking about the council and Mayor Basran, said: “I want them to sit their kids down at dinner and explain to them what this facility actually is, how close to a school this is.”
He added: “There’s no pot shop here. No liquor store. But a wet facility is fine.
“My kids should be able to play outside without worrying about needles.”
Another resident, Marlene Davidson, said she doesn’t even have young children or live in the immediate area, but feels that Rutland is unfairly treated.
She said: “How can we make our downtown vibrant when there’s [a wet facility] on every corner? We can’t develop our area.
“All the things these people need are [in] downtown [Kelowna]. It’s so ridiculous.”
“This mayor and council are concentrating on downtown and the place where the money is,” she added.
Davidson also said that, were the facility to prohibit drug use, she would happily have it in the area – and even volunteer to help herself.
“I’ve never seen a mayor like this,” she said. “And he says quit complaining… this isn’t going to end.”
Many other parents at the protest spoke of their fears of crime and, particularly, of needles being found in the community.
One, who has three children between the ages of nine and 12, said: “I’ve been here 40-something years. This is sick.
“I don’t send my kids to the park anymore. I don’t want them stepping on anything.
“People are constantly having stuff stolen. Every morning when I go to work there are people camping out, sh***ing, puking.”
The protest organizer, meanwhile, said he has been demonstrating since Father’s Day – and started completely alone.
“I’ve been here every day,” Christopher Bocskei said.
“Some people then started to join me – the Sikh community sent over 12 members.
“But the reason this is different is because of the [nearby] schools. We have to save the kids. There’s a thousand kids pass this area every day.”
He added: “We also have to save our community. This [facility] won’t solve the homeless problem.”
Chaz Friesen, meanwhile, was particularly critical of Mayor Basran.
“We are now at the point of where we will rise up,” he said.
“[Mayor Basran] is playing a game. He is obfuscating. But if there are two people in an elevator and someone farts, you know who did it.
“And Basran doesn’t smell so good right now.”
Protests are planned for Monday for the groundbreaking ceremony, Tuesday as Mayor Basran visits the PetroCan on Leathead Road and Hwy 97 and Wednesday at Rutland Hall.