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Transition house gets mixed reception in Victoria

U-Turn Drop-in Centre executive director Jeff Bourne addresses the audience at a public meeting about his group’s proposal to set up a transition house for recovering addicts.
U-Turn Drop-in Centre executive director Jeff Bourne addresses the audience at a public meeting about his group’s proposal to set up a transition house for recovering addicts.

The Victoria Community Centre was otherwise silent as close to 100 residents listened to a young woman talk about her experience with addiction.

The Victoria Community Centre was otherwise silent as close to 100 residents listened to a young woman talk about her experience with addiction.

She hoped her message would sway them to open their community to a transition house for people looking to take back control of their life.

“We all make mistakes,” said the woman, who also lives in Victoria. “We all have our own battles that we are facing. We should not be defined of who we are because of our mistakes. We don’t need society to be judging us when we do that enough for ourselves.

“I think there are so many things that can be done to help addicts. I strongly believe opening this centre will be the first step to help build a brighter future for addicts today and tomorrow.”

The centre in question would be a new location for the U-Turn Drop-in Centre. The owners of a former retirement home in the community have offered to donate their building to the organization, which regularly hosts meetings for people dealing with addictions issues.

In addition to serving as a new location for the drop-in centre, the building has more than enough room to accommodate transition housing. According to a plan drafted by U-Turn’s board of directors, the facility would take in residents referred to the program from provincial government treatment centres like the Grace Centre in Harbour Grace and Humberwood in Corner Brook.

The proposal needs Victoria council’s approval. After taking in a presentation at a recent council meeting, it was decided a public consultation was necessary to educate residents and get feedback.

Board chairman Curt Clarke told attendees of last Wednesday’s meeting that the facility would be welcoming people who have shown a strong desire to overcome their addiction.

They will complete a 28-day recovery program in Harbour Grace or Corner Brook before arriving at the transition house. There will be zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol, random drug tests will be administered, visiting hours will be restricted and take place in a public area, and a curfew will be enforced. It will be a secure building with a buzz-in system.

The Victoria Community Centre was otherwise silent as close to 100 residents listened to a young woman talk about her experience with addiction.

She hoped her message would sway them to open their community to a transition house for people looking to take back control of their life.

“We all make mistakes,” said the woman, who also lives in Victoria. “We all have our own battles that we are facing. We should not be defined of who we are because of our mistakes. We don’t need society to be judging us when we do that enough for ourselves.

“I think there are so many things that can be done to help addicts. I strongly believe opening this centre will be the first step to help build a brighter future for addicts today and tomorrow.”

The centre in question would be a new location for the U-Turn Drop-in Centre. The owners of a former retirement home in the community have offered to donate their building to the organization, which regularly hosts meetings for people dealing with addictions issues.

In addition to serving as a new location for the drop-in centre, the building has more than enough room to accommodate transition housing. According to a plan drafted by U-Turn’s board of directors, the facility would take in residents referred to the program from provincial government treatment centres like the Grace Centre in Harbour Grace and Humberwood in Corner Brook.

The proposal needs Victoria council’s approval. After taking in a presentation at a recent council meeting, it was decided a public consultation was necessary to educate residents and get feedback.

Board chairman Curt Clarke told attendees of last Wednesday’s meeting that the facility would be welcoming people who have shown a strong desire to overcome their addiction.

They will complete a 28-day recovery program in Harbour Grace or Corner Brook before arriving at the transition house. There will be zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol, random drug tests will be administered, visiting hours will be restricted and take place in a public area, and a curfew will be enforced. It will be a secure building with a buzz-in system.

A caretaker will live on site. An operations manager and part-time social worker will also be employed. Residents will be required to pay their own rent and look after living expenses.

For the first few years, the operation will accommodate four-to-six residents before considering a potential expansion. Clarke emphasized the transition house will be unlike anything else currently existing in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Opposition

Reaction to the proposal was mixed. While just about everyone in the room seemed willing to acknowledge there is a substance abuse problem in the community, some expressed reservations about having the facility in the centre of Victoria. The building is located on Route 70, a short distance from the main turnoff by the Irving gas station.

“It’s in the heart of a residential area. None of you guys are waking up across the road from this,” said a man who lives directly across from the building.

“I don’t want to have to wake up every morning and explain to my son and my daughter what they are. I don’t want them seeing that everyday,” added a woman who lives close to the building.

Victoria Coun. Jennifer Baker speaks during last’s Wednesday public consultation at the local Community Centre.

Coun. Jennifer Baker discussed the importance of treating addicts as human beings instead of people for the public to shun. She also suggested some fears were misdirected.

“These people want to change their lives. These people are doing something about it,” she said. “Two houses down the road, you’ve got some man or woman selling drugs, pushing it to our children. Sending their children to school to push it on our children. These are the people that we should be worried about.”

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U-Turn executive director Jeff Bourne, who lives in Victoria and overcame his own addictions issues before starting up the centre, suggested addicts do not get a fair shake.

“Addiction is classified as a disease. If we were going to open up a place for cancer patients, or some other disease, you’d get a pat on the back,” he said. “People in the grip of addiction, they’ve had enough people kick them in the face. Everybody is after turning their back on them … It’d be an honour for me to bring this back to the town of Victoria, where the vision started … I know the people in here are community people, and they’re lovely people.”

Mayor Barry Dooley said the town is presently considering whether to vote on the proposal or hold a plebiscite vote for the entire community.  The next Victoria council meeting is Dec. 13.

editor@cbncompass.ca

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