City council still supports Island Bay wet house
WELLINGTON City Council still supports a wet house for alcoholics in Island Bay, despite a decision by the trust that wants to run it to withdraw.
The council will continue to support the Te Whare Oki Oki Trust project, which is designed to house six to eight homeless alcoholics, as the facility is badly needed, councillor Iona Pannett told a meeting of the Island Bay Residents Association last night.
“It is a really good project and irrespective of the debate that is occurring there are still people sleeping on the streets or in a night shelter and that is unacceptable,” she said.
Te Whare Oki Oki turned down funding from the council and the Capital & Coast District Health Board after it was asked by the health board to present a five-year funding plan for the wet house.
Ms Pannett says the proposed Ribble St property continues to be an appropriate location, as the facility should not be placed in an inner-city environment where the tenants would face unhelpful influences that would hinder their recovery.
She believes the centre’s residents would pose little threat to the suburb’s children and elderly, which is the main concern for the Island Bay residents opposed to the project.
Councillor Celia Wade-Brown agreed with Ms Pannett, saying studies available on similar facilities were on day centres catering for up to 40 residents.
“A lot of the concern from schools was that some of the day centres shut at 3pm.
“The potential residents [of the centre] were not convicted of serious crime and some of the undesirable behaviour was because they were homeless,” she said.
She said she did not believe problems that arose at such day centres would occur at the Ribble St house, which would cater for only six to eight people.
Island Bay resident Iain Cossar said the group opposed to the facility was not against the concept of a wet house – they were opposed to its location.
“It should not be exposed to residential areas with high densities of children and elderly.
“There is a real question about the suitability of the Ribble St site,” he said.
Many residents felt the council was not taking their concerns seriously and one resident questioned Ms Pannett about how she would feel if the wet house was placed next door to her home.
The facility trust’s chairperson, Ruth Harrison, says in a media release Te Whare Oki Oki is considering other funding options, “as the trust is no longer willing to rely on the Council and DHB to provide their linked funding”.
“The DHB’s decision to demand a five-year funding plan right now – rather than after the project had been running for a year- is unreasonable.
“This is a pilot project and its success can only sensibly be assessed after its first year of operation,” she says.
The Ribble St wet house may still go ahead if the trust finds the necessary funding from elsewhere, so the battle is not over for the opposing group.