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Virtual meeting called for proposed transitional housing complex

Mayor Brian Bigger hopes the city offers Lorraine Street area residents better clarity on a transitional housing complex that has been proposed for their neighbourhood

The City of Greater Sudbury has scheduled a virtual meeting for residents of the Lorraine Street area to weigh in on a transitional housing complex proposed for their neighbourhood. 

The meeting will take place on Thursday from 6-8 p.m., with those who wish to speak asked to sign up by the end of the day Tuesday by emailing jacinda.mclean@greatersudbury.ca. 

Information on how to connect to the meeting can be found by clicking here

Approximately 50 Lorraine Street area residents gathered at Const. Joseph MacDonald Park last month in opposition to the project, which is targeted to help people who are chronically homeless transition into permanent community housing.

Area resident Jason Violino said this week that nothing has taken place since that time and that they’ve been waiting for Thursday’s meeting to express their collective opposition to a greater selection of city staff and council.

Although Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan and Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc attended last month’s gathering in a showing of support for residents’ opposition, it remains to be seen how the balance of city council is expected to vote when it comes time to move forward on the project. 

There’s plenty of neighbourhood opposition standing in the project’s way, Violino said, pointing to a petition of 350 names as evidence city council should reconsider their site selection.

“We feel, No. 1, that it would be better-suited downtown,” he said, adding that the Lorraine Street neighbourhood “is just not suited for it.”

Although thankful for the opportunity to weigh in on the project at Thursday’s virtual meeting, for which he said 10 people are already slated to speak, Violino said it’s a shame an in-person meeting couldn’t have been scheduled.

“It was supposed to be an in-person meeting until the numbers of COVID climbed and they decided that it was not possible to have in person,” he said. “Some people are frustrated because the majority of the concerned people in the area are elderly and they don't really know how to get onto a Zoom meeting.”

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of clarity comes out of Thursday’s meeting, Mayor Brian Bigger said, particularly since he doesn’t believe the project has been adequately explained to area residents.

A written notice the City of Greater Sudbury distributed to alert residents advertising Thursday’s meeting notes that “city council has approved the development of a 40-unit affordable housing building on Lorraine St. which will support people and populations who are vulnerable.”

“Based on how it’s described, I don’t support it at Lorraine Street,” he said. “My understanding in voting in favour of that location was that it would not have an impact on the residential neighbourhood that we are locating that facility in close proximity to.”

The project isn’t an “affordable housing building,” Bigger said, clarifying that he understands where city staff got their wording from, as the $7.4-million in federal funding they’re expected to receive for the project is from an “affordable housing” pot. 

Bigger’s understanding, which is supported by the city’s original business case, is that the proposed facility would include an Assertive Community Treatment Team consisting of 12 full-time and four part-time staff who deal with patients 16 hours per day, seven days per week.

“This is not a setting where people are free to come and go and accept services when they want,” he said. “These are people who live in a clinical setting that is operated by (Health Sciences North) that is operated by doctors and nurses 16 hours of one-to-one contact and the other hours are sleeping. … That is completely different from anything we’d call affordable housing.”

The number of proposed units has fluctuated, however, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation funding the city has applied for hinges on the creation of at least 28 units. 

The staff complement currently being assembled is expected to be able to handle between 40 and 60 clients, which would translate into an equal number of single-bed units. 

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.