19 March 2009

Therapeutic Communities in Era of NIMBYism

Today comes great news for (eventually) 96 homeless and vulnerable people near Victoria. And with it comes some old news.

The good news comes in the announcement of a new therapeutic community to be created on Vancouver Island. Thanks to two major anonymous donors, the Creating Homefulness Society was able to purchase the 78-hectare Woodwynn Farm in Central Saanich.
The new owner's plans include growing organic vegetables, herbs and berries, community garden plots, horse riding, livestock and greenhouses. "Every acre of available farmland will be farmed," said society board chairman Rob Reid

Which sounds very much like the Cowichan Valley's own Providence Farm, a therapeutic community of international reputation, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and is the pride of Valley residents.

But here's the old news:
Initially, Leblanc wanted clients to live at the farm, but Central Saanich council refused to consider rezoning to allow that. The debate was often acrimonious and Central Saanich Mayor Jack Mar expects there will be some strong feelings about the purchase. Leblanc is not yet certain where clients will live, but is looking at options.

Rather than see 96 vulnerable people housed, those with property in the area would prefer they remain homeless on the streets. Because, you see, those streets aren't in their very own backyards.

But neither is the farm, given its 78-hectare size and all.

The heartless cruelty and idiocy of such NIMBY attitudes is boundless.

"Idiocy," I say, because as therapeutic communities like Providence Farm demonstrate, people with mental health and developmental challenges CAN be happy, productive and valued members of their community.

If only they are given the chance. If only other members of the community would allow these people the same pride, and sense of belonging and of home as they cherish for themselves and their own.

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