Kenora city hall is a lively place to be these days. Sam Atchison presented a petition with more than 300 names on it yesterday, as Evergreen-area residents expressed concerns about a supportive housing project.

"I am not saying not in my backyard. I am saying not in my schoolyard. My daughter attends that school. My job as a mother is to protect her from any sort of harm," she said, noting there were many other places the project could go.

During the meeting, the city noted they had received a letter of support from the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board, who operate the Evergreen School nearby. However, members of the audience questioned the board's support.

In March, the province announced a $4.5 million provincial investment for a 30-unit supportive housing development. Yesterday's meeting was to discuss rezoning for the construction of 20 of the 30 units.

According to the Kenora District Services Board, the Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services would develop the infrastructure, and the services board would provide support through a lease agreement.

At the end of yesterday's planning meeting, city council reserved their decision. Building Kenora's first social housing in a generation is proving to be more difficult than some community leaders expected.

"We have a long way to go as a community to reconcile the fact that we have some ugly beliefs, some ugly truths that exist, and we need to address them," said Henry Wall, who is the chief administrative officer for the services board.

Funding was announced by the province last month, and partners in the project are hoping to start construction this year. Yesterday's meeting was to allow for public input on changing the zoning.

Kenora Mayor Dan Reynard says the city has lots of information to consider.

"We have the original application. We have the report from the planner. We have the minutes from not only the PAC (Planning Advisory Committee) meeting, but also the special meeting KDSB held, and we will debate the merits of the zoning application next Tuesday," he said.

According to the services board, some components of Supportive Housing include:
• Supporting individuals and families that are at risk of homelessness;
• Affordability, safety and security;
• A home-like atmosphere, and;
• Access to support services that are case managed around individual needs.

Supportive housing does not:
• House those who are involved in the judicial system;
• Increase crime and criminal activity within the vicinity of the location;
• Decrease property values, and;
• Discriminate against any individual to be eligible for tenancy; however criteria will be in place to ensure the appropriate individuals will be selected for tenancy.

For more information:

Province funds social housing