Recovery society being evicted from Delta hotel
By Boaz Joseph - Surrey North Delta Leader
Published: February 26, 2013 12:00 PM
Updated: February 27, 2013 10:33 AM
It made perfect financial sense for Jim O'Rourke.
Rather than overpay for two recently rented houses, the executive director of a local addiction recovery service decided to move into a North Delta hotel.
Rooms would be rented on an as-needed basis, he concluded.
In the first week of February, VisionQuest Recovery Society rented the third floor of the North Delta Inn, where its clients, 20 recovering addicts under court order to get clean, proceeded to also clean up the hotel.
With permission from hotel management, VisionQuest cleaned the walls, tore out old carpets, replaced dirty mattresses and fixed leaking pipes.
They also brought in their own furniture.
Just weeks in, the society is being evicted, despite its best intentions – and a justice system-supported reputation for turning around the lives of addicts.
The group must be gone by March 1, according to a notice by Delta bylaw officials, who cited that hotel space rented to a recovery society contravened Delta Zoning Bylaw No. 2750.
"They think I'm trying to open up a treatment centre," O'Rourke said. "(But) they hold all the aces."
Mayor Lois Jackson said Delta is just following procedure.
“The real issue here is the property owner failing to follow an established long-standing rezoning application process,” said Jackson in a Feb. 26 press release. "This is standard procedure applicable to all municipalities operating under the Local Government Act, not just the Corporation of Delta."
She added that at no time did the property owner of the North Delta Inn or VisionQuest contact the municipality to discuss permitted uses and their proposed occupancy, and that in principle, she has no problem with VisionQuest operating in Delta if it complies with zoning regulations.
Photo: Jim O'Rourke at the North Delta Inn.
O'Rourke was informed by his lawyer on Wednesday that a judge has rejected VisionQuest's appeal against the eviction, and that Delta bylaw officers will be on scene on Friday to carry out the municipality's orders.
Formed in 1995, VisionQuest currently runs 10 recovery homes in Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford. The non-profit society's motto is "crime prevention through rehabilitation," and it takes a no-nonsense, cold-turkey approach to addiction treatment.
The program is 90 days, although clients are not forced to leave afterwards.
"If they don't have a place to go that's not solid for them… a lot of these guys don't have homes to go back to," said drug and alcohol counsellor Frank Degenstien. "If they've got somewhere to come, they're not doing crimes on the street."
The clients are prolific offenders, and have been ordered by judges and prosecutors to take the VisionQuest program – the alternative is prison, they're told.
"The Crown and prosecutors know the reputation we have, that if they decide to bolt, we file the report immediately," said Degenstien. "The judges, they trust VisionQuest."
O'Rourke admits it's difficult to get public support and donations for his society because clients are "convicts and they've broken lots of laws."
But he said recovery is a major part of crime prevention.
He keeps his cellphone on at all times, for calls from addicts' family members, who more than once have stated: "He's a good boy."
"They all are when they're not using dope."
For more information or to help with space, call Jim O'Rourke at 604-537-4401, email email@example.com or visit www.visionquestsociety.org