Grant McKenzie, Our Place director of communications, and Dana Young, who will be the director of the therapeutic recovery community planned for View Royal, show off the site. (Katherine Engqvist/News Gazette staff)

Our Place looks to create new therapeutic recovery community in View Royal

Rezoning still needed for former site of Choices Transitional Housing

If all goes as planned, the former Choices Transitional Housing in View Royal will be home to new programming and new residents.

Our Place Society, which operated Choices, has proposed turning the site at 94 Talcott Rd. into a long term therapeutic recovery community (TRC). But for that to happen, View Royal council will have to approve a rezoning application for the site and the province will need to formally commit to funding.

“The neat thing about it is because it’s a community, the residents that come in will help choose a name and de-institutionalize it more based on their needs,” said Grant McKenzie, Our Place director of communications.

“The name ‘Choice’ came from when we first had people in tents,” McKenzie explained, adding it was the option for people to stay in tents or transition inside.

RELATED: Cool Aid’s renovated ex-hotel offers opportunities, more living space

At an open house last Thursday, representatives from Our Place unveiled plans for the site and introduced the community to Dana Young, who will be the director of the therapeutic recovery community. “We’re really hopeful, I think it will make a big difference,” Young said. “It’s really exciting to see the changes I see in peoples’ lives … They’re people you’d want as neighbours.”

She brings more than 30 years of experience in the criminal justice field and for the past 25 years has worked specifically in the areas of therapeutic communities and program development relating to drugs and alcohol. Young was the program manager of Guthrie Therapeutic Community at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre before making the move to Greater Victoria.

“We’re hoping to start with about 12 residents and we’ll gradually increase it,” she said of the proposed program, which could house up to 50 residents with stays ranging from 12 to 24 months.

It’s a model of treatment that includes ‘push ups’ – positive things residents do – and ‘pull ups’ – positive things residents do to help another that may need a boost – and is similar to society in terms of values. “It’s about residents supporting each other and keeping themselves accountable,” Young explained. “People start to look at their hopes and dreams and what’s preventing them.”

Along with learning coping mechanisms and receiving treatment – both mentally and physically – residents will also learn life skills and how to be in healthy relationships. There will also be opportunity for social enterprise projects including a woodworking shop, kiln, community garden and more.

One of the primary differences between the new program and the old housing is that the site will be closed. Unlike residents of Choices, participants in the new program will not be allowed to leave the site or use drugs or alcohol.

“The people coming to the TRC are wanting to make a change,” McKenzie said, noting they are people that want to get back to being leaders in society. “It’s about learning to make good choices … it can take a long time if your whole life has been in a gang or on the street.”

RELATED: New residents settling in to former Tally Ho Motel

The former residents of Choices were re-homed before the site closed on March 31. More than 100 residents transitioned from Choices into permanent housing with a large number moving to the former Tally Ho Motel, which was renovated and is now being operated by the Victoria Cool Aid Society.

Our Place has asked the province to contribute $1.1 million for the first year of the new therapeutic recovery program and a combined total of $4.7 million over seven years.

While McKenzie noted they have verbal support from the province, they don’t have a formal commitment for funding. However, the society is well on its way to achieving its private fundraising goal with $1.1 million of the $1.5 million goal raised.

Our Place has not filed their rezoning request with the Town of View Royal but expects to do so by mid-month. That process will allow community members to provide input. Our Place is also hosting a second open house on April 28 for residents who would like to know more about the proposal. It takes place at the centre, 94 Talcott Rd., from 1 until 4 p.m.


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