Councillor tempers 'rumours' after petitions circulate opposing home for people in crisis

A London city councillor is calling for calm after petitions have circulated in favour and against a stabilization space, which would be located at a house in a residential neighbourhood, to help people who are experiencing a crisis. 

The city purchased 345 Sylvan Street for the purpose of opening a stabilization space for addiction, trauma

345 Sylvan Street was picked as a stabilization space due to its proximity to Victoria Hospital and because it was already zoned for the intended use as a former group home.  (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

A London city councillor is asking for calm after petitions circulated in favour and against a home, located in a south-end neighbourhood, meant to help people experiencing crisis. 

Ward 11 Coun. Stephen Turner sent a letter to concerned residents on Sunday assuring them that their input will guide the final decisions for 345 Sylvan Street. 

"I would ask that you refrain from judgment until there has been a chance to provide input into the discussion and a model for how the service will be provided is developed. There are a lot of rumours that have been stirred up in the community," Turner said in the letter. 

Back in November, city council approved the purchase of the house located a few blocks from Victoria Hospital, north of Base Line Rd., in part because it was already zoned a group home.

London City Council Meeting - November 26, 2019

3 years ago
Duration 1:14
Coun. Steven Hillier reads from the 21st Report of Council, including the purchase of the property at 345 Sylvan Street in London, Ont.

Council is looking at transforming it into a "stabilization space", which Turner said would be a centre where police could send individuals experiencing in-the-moment crisis, including mental health, addiction and trauma. 

In the letter, Turner outlines how the space could work: 

  • The space would only be used for short term stabilization (24-96 hours).
  • People will not be able to self-refer to the stabilization space. Only police would refer people to the space. 
  • Drug use will not be permitted on-site.
  • If individuals wish to use drugs, staff will facilitate a direct transfer to the supervised consumption site downtown. Sylvan Street will not be used as a supervised consumption site.
  • Participants are not mandated to stay in the space and any participants who wish to leave the space will be transferred to other programs  within the city, such as an emergency shelter. 
  • Individuals using the services on-site will be offered connections to appropriate community supports.

However, Turner says many of the details of the centre are still unknown. 

"The property was bought before the plan and model has been developed," Turner told CBC News. "We still have a lot of questions left to ask and a lot of development of the plan to do." 

Turner says once the sale of the property is finalized mid January, the city will hold an information and public consultation session so people can raise any concerns. 

"The community's input will be imperative to making sure that whatever plan that is brought forward, it is one that is suitable for our community," he added. 

Jeremy McCall, the Londoner who started the petition in support of the stabilization site in the Old South neighbourhood, believes lending a helping hand to those in the community who need it would benefit everyone. 

"Denying that space doesn't make the problem go away," he said. 

"A lot of those same people [who are committing small crimes] are the people who would benefit from a place like a stabilization space. These people are struggling with addiction, they're trying to feed their addiction and having a place that's run by certified professionals would give them a safe environment to attempt to be well," he added. 

CBC News contacted people who are against the site's location, but did not receive a response.