VisionQuest is attracting a lot of interest in a proposed recovery house in Davis Bay. A standing-room-only crowd packed the Davis Bay Hall on Tuesday night for an information meeting hosted by the VisionQuest Society.
The meeting began on a calm note with brief presentations by VisionQuest chair Earl Moulton and executive director Jim O'Rourke.
Moulton, a retired policeman with over 28 years experience at all levels of law enforcement, began by thanking Sechelt mayor and council for their compassion in offering to lease (subject to community input) the former Kirkland Centre to VisionQuest for $1 per year.
Moulton also told the crowd he's been sober for 27 years and his mission in life is to help others achieve that goal.
The retired cop gave kudos to O'Rourke for his work with the society. "Jim understands addiction in all it nefarious ways," Moulton said.
He went on to say that the group has a proven track record. "We do sober people up. We do get them clean. We're founded on responsibility, respect and honesty, a society of complete abstinence, no methadone, no needle exchange."
For his part, O'Rourke told the people that no sexual offenders or pedophiles are allowed at the group's recovery houses. "But we do take criminals, because addiction leads to crime," he explained.
Those entering the recovery house have a minimum 90-day commitment where the clients are monitored constantly. "Public safety is foremost," O'Rourke said.
The first speaker from the floor took exception to O'Rourke's reassurances. He took the society to task for the proposed centre being close to an elementary school, a day care facility and Brookman Park.
"You're a square peg in a round hole. Kids' safety comes first," said a neighbour who lives on Simpkins Road near Kirkland Centre.
He went on to express his concern that his property values would drop if the recovery centre came to be.
Moulton told him the group has an excellent reputation in Surrey where Hope House (a recovery house) exists in a residential area. He urged any concerned Davis Bay residents to check out VisionQuest's website at www.visionquestsociety.org and to email either him or O'Rourke. They can also be reached at 1-866-556-4241.
O'Rourke said the crime rate has actually gone down in the Hope House area. Several audience members told the men there is no crime in Davis Bay.
That opinion, said Const. Bryson Hill of the Sunshine Coast detachment of the RCMP, is a fallacy.
Hill, a member on the Coast for 7.5 years including three years in drug enforcement, said there has been a rash of break and enters in the Davis Bay area, and in almost every case where the perpetrator has been caught, the thief has been an addict. Hill said that ,looking about the audience, he recognized several people whose homes he attended after burglaries.
"There is crime here," he stressed.
Hill said there are many active dope dealers on the Coast. Most are of the dial-a-dope variety that use cell phones to connect with users, and they tend to meet up with clients in Davis Bay because it's a central spot on the Coast. Hill is an avid proponent of VisionQuest.
"I see the damage [addiction] is doing - beautiful people with an ugly addiction," Hill said.
Aside from several interruptions from one audience member, the meeting, for the most part, was an orderly event. Most people were there for information. A list of several questions, ranging from how many people would be housed at the centre to how the society got its funds were answered by Moulton and O'Rourke.
Several people spoke about the toll addiction had taken in their own life or in the life of someone they cared about. One young man, now an assistant pastor at a local church, told people of his past addictions and his efforts to be clean. He told them he had come to the meeting with a closed mind. He felt it would not be safe for his children to have the house in the area. However, he said, the presentation had alleviated his fears and he will now support the recovery house in his neighbourhood.At least two medical people spoke to the crowd about the need for such a facility on the Coast.
Dr. John Hourigan said the recovery home would be a low risk facility. "These people [the addicts] are our fathers, our mothers, our sisters, our brothers. It's bad in this community," he said.
Asked to speak to the audience, Sechelt Mayor Cam Reid said no formal decision regarding the recovery house had been made. He stressed council would need reassurance to safeguard the community. He expects a rezoning would probably be necessary to allow the home. Due process will be carried out with public hearings and other opportunities for residents' input.
Retired nurse Annabel Dick was one of the residents most adamant in her support of the facility.
"This is my neighbourhood too, and I am saying I am more than willing to give it a go. I have to believe I live in a community where people care for each other," she said.
Next up, Moulton said, is for Vision Quest to develop building plans and present them to council so the process can move to the rezoning phase.