Courtenay council and the Comox Valley RCMP have vowed to do what they can to improve day-to-day life of residents at the Kiwanis Village for seniors, which sits across the street from The Junction supportive housing complex.
At the June 8 meeting, council listened to stories that suggest the neighbourhood has deteriorated since the complex opened last year at 988 Eighth St. Kiwanis resident Karen Hope read a number of impact statements from fellow residents who have been feeling unsafe, and unheard. A 90-year-old resident is fed up with the noise, the garbage, the yelling and the drug use. This person questions if a Good Neighbour Policy is enforced or even exists.
“I once used to enjoy my patio but I cannot even use it any more. I do not open my drapes any more. I would like to see some control over night-time activities and noise so I can sleep.”
Another resident carries dog spray for protection.
“I have strangers coming around my rental unit regularly and sometimes late at night. I’m 69 years old, and I’m scared of having an encounter with one of these people. I’m experiencing sleepless nights. I’m worn out mentally and physically. This is no way to live. I’m angry.”
Wendy Richardson, executive director at the John Howard Society of North Island, which operates The Junction, notes that several complaints relate to issues that existed before the complex opened. She also notes that Junction staff can only police what happens on the grounds or inside the building.
Last year, Couns. Doug Hillian and Will Cole-Hamilton met with Kiwanis residents and shared concerns with BC Housing, which moved the smoking area — a source of noise — behind the building. Regardless, Hillian is saddened by the notion that attempts to get people off street and into housing might have disrupted the neighbourhood.
“I know we’ve asked a lot of this neighbourhood over many years with the various services that exist, and it’s come at a cost,” he said. “I think we need to work with the community to do what we can to improve the situation.”
“Hearing these stories is quite saddening,” Coun. David Frisch added. “Kiwanis Village in my mind is a gem in our community.”
At times, Hope said residents will call the Junction, but are often told that nothing can be done, and that loud music will play for hours.
“Most people are afraid to phone the police. I’d like to see some kind of solution,” Hope said. “Any time we try to communicate with The Junction, we don’t get any response, mostly.”
Richardson said most calls come from an elderly man who lives opposite and who struggles with any kind of noise. The records of calls indicate that Junction staff follow up by walking around the outside of the building to try to locate which unit a radio or TV might be heard from. Staff then speak with the resident, who typically turns off the music.
Richardson notes that one call from a neighbour (not a Kiwanis resident) said loud opera music was coming from the elderly man’s residence.
“She wrote that her neighbours live right across from The Junction and ‘they can sometimes hear music/TV but it is faint.’ I suspect that some seniors are more bothered by radio/TV noise than others,” Richardson said.
She also notes that Junction residents do not need to sleep in the bus stop in front of Kiwanis.
“It was clear to me that the neighbourhood challenges are much broader than those that might flow from The Junction,” Richardson said.
Coun. Manno Theos suggested that a Good Neighbour Agreement needs to be revisited.
“I feel for the people in Kiwanis Village. This cannot continue,” said Theos, noting increased crime and drug dealing in the city.
Richardson said Junction residents sign a Good Neighbour Agreement and a Good Neighbour Policy, though these are not with Kiwanis Village per se.
“They are about our residents being good neighbours to everyone, including other residents and all the neighbours in the area.”
Comox Valley RCMP Insp. Mike Kurvers said drug dealing and other night-time activities need to be reported by calling 911.
“We’ve done projects at The Junction and been very successful. Once we show up, they scatter,” he said. “We need the evidence to support charges. There’s a number of ways we can do that. One of them is more visibility, but we can’t be there all the time.”
He can ask officers to park in front of the building.
Kurvers also wants to commit a resource to attend Kiwanis neighbourhood meetings.