Supportive housing that recently opened on Mission Flats Road has a new name, due to public backlash over the person to whom the namesake paid tribute.
Osborne House is now Mission Flats Manor.
“We don’t want to harm anybody in what we do and want to be a bridge and a joiner in the community, not the divider,” ASK Wellness Society executive director Bob Hughes told KTW. “For that reason, we changed the name.”
Osborne House was briefly named for Donnie Osborne, a Kamloops man who experienced significant transformation in supportive housing before he died in 2016. Hughes recalled “very powerful” change during that time that resonated with many people. Positive inroads included connecting with the community, feeding and clothing others and becoming an adjudicator on the streets.
“From our perspective, the naming of it as Osborne House was a testament to what Don went through,” Hughes said.
Osborne’s transformation did not, however, erase a dark past two decades earlier.
After Osborne House was unveiled, some community members relayed to ASK Wellness concerns about Osborne’s criminal history, which included armed robbery and burglary. One man noted previous aggression and called Osborne a “bully.”
As a result, ASK Wellness stripped Osborne’s name from the housing, instead substituting the simple moniker Mission Flats Manor.
“Our organization believes in social justice, but not at other people’s expense,” Hughes said.
Hughes called the situation “the zeitgeist of our era” and likened it to recent controversy surrounding John A. Macdonald. A statue of Canada’a first prime minister was taken down from Victoria City Hall earlier this year, with that city’s council citing his role in creating the country’s residential school system.
“Whether it’s a huge amount of people or couple of people, if it offends people, then you know potentially we can find right or wrong,” Hughes said. “That’s just the sensibilities right now.”
Meanwhile, Hughes hopes to refocus attention on the bigger picture — housing 55 people. Going forward, Osborne will be remembered in other ways.
“We’ve still got a big picture framed of Donnie in the main common room [at Mission Flags Manor] and we’ll still pay tribute to the man to him himself and to what the last 15 years of his life spoke to, which is about transformation and about becoming a contributor and an honourable person,” Hughes said said.
“At the end of the day, we can still do that. We just don’t need to name the building after him.”