Success stories take time at Kamloops' Rosethorn, while the waitlist remains long | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Success stories take time at Kamloops' Rosethorn, while the waitlist remains long

Bobby Hilson, 62, has lived at Rosethorn for about four months, he said on May 12.
May 16, 2021 - 9:00 AM

As some residents of the Rosethorn in Kamloops start moving on to new housing or to addiction treatment centres, Bobby Hilson is a new resident who’s getting settled in his new home.

Hilson is 62 and soft spoken, but he’s not shy. Walking into the common-area at Rosethorn, he said he likes to stay fashionable.

With his reflective tracksuit and gold watch, he’s hard to miss, especially while he has to limp with a medical walking boot on one foot. He had an infection, and with help from the medical staff at Rosethorn, he eventually had to have a toe amputated.

“I come from a background of crime, I was born into it. So 13 years ago I left it all behind, moved here and just started over,” he said.

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But he lives with schizophrenia, and when he fell off medication a few years ago, he landed in trouble with the law. He avoided jail time with the help of his social worker, and after some time on the streets, landed in an ASK Wellness facility.

“I was in some other housing but it wasn’t working out for me. My social worker helped me move into Rosethorn. She’s my saving grace,” Hilson said.

Now Hilson and a friend at Rosethorn are supporting each other to stay clean from drug use, but it’s too soon for him to start planning to move on. Right now, plans for the future are not something he's even considered.

“I’d rather be here as long as possible. If I move forward from here? I don’t have any plans for that,” he said.

He's just thankful to have stability while he stays clean.

The medical examination room at Rosethorn, where visiting nurse practitioners can treat residents.
The medical examination room at Rosethorn, where visiting nurse practitioners can treat residents.

He might not want to move on, but if .

Michelle Gauthier is the supportive housing manager at Rosethorn. She said that while there are both successful clients and some who may get evicted, there are still about 300 hundred individuals in Kamloops waiting for a spot at any supportive housing facility in the city.

“Each resident agrees to a wellness plan that includes goal-setting,” Gauthier said. “That could be finding a job, or it could be managing their unit if they struggle with hoarding. To come from the streets and into here, possessions are everything to somebody so to work with somebody on that, it’s really impactful as well.”

But with just 42 units, but hundreds in the queue, the wait can be long.

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An interior view of one of the 42 units at Rosethorn.
An interior view of one of the 42 units at Rosethorn.

In the past three months, three people at the facility have gained employment after getting employment training through Rosethorn, and three more will complete their employment course by the end of May.

Another three individuals are ready to move on to drug use treatment facilities when spots become available. Meanwhile, around 80% of current residents are on some sort of opioid treatment program, like methadone or suboxone.

CMHA lets residents move at their own pace to gain independence and move on from the facility. Each resident will have their own wellness plan with goals tailored to each person’s needs, whether it's employment training, mental health or substance use counselling, or any of the other supports they offer through CMHA.

When asked what could be added at Rosethorn to meet the needs of the 42 in housing now and 300 on the waitlist for supportive housing, she and Alfred Achoba, acting director of CMHA Kamloops said: “More.”

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Part of the difficulty for CMHA is a lack of second stage housing to move residents into after supportive housing. There are six current residents that benefit from that now, freeing up space for new people.

Achoba wants to see a housing program in place where residents could move on from the constant supervision and security of a facility like Rosethorn, into a housing situation with weekly check-ins — something similar to a group home setting. 

Achoba has floated a variety of possible supports to help current facilities, like an in-house physician and more mental health support workers. For people looking to move on from supportive housing, he would like to see more rental subsidies or liaison services to work with landlords.

But the root of the issue, to Achoba, is that housing is simply too expensive.

“The goal is to get someone to meet their basic life skills and live independently. If they take up to five years? Fine. That process is subjective to the individual,” Achoba said. “Some facilities may have a guideline of two years to move on, but for us we tailor to the individual’s needs.”

Rosethorn opened in January 2020. Since then, it has seen their residents make progress and achieve goals, but it takes time.
Rosethorn opened in January 2020. Since then, it has seen their residents make progress and achieve goals, but it takes time.

The list of clients currently waiting for a room has to be narrowed to 10 or 12 people each month. Usually Gauthier has no choice but to give the unfortunate news that there is no room yet.

Prospective residents are each put through a Vulnerability Assessment Tool.

It's a tool put forward by B.C. Housing that is used at supportive housing facilities to help not only gauge the resources needed for each resident, but also to balance the needs that the facility can afford to target towards each of the 42 people housed at one time.

While there are a handful of people on the Kamloops streets that need a disproportionate amount of support to stay in one of these facilities, simply taking all of the most vulnerable, and potentially unpredictable, at one time is simply not feasible.

With little options for a permanent housing solution, it leaves many of those experiencing homelessness in Kamloops to camp, use temporary shelters or live in motels.

Many of the people committing petty crimes or nuisance in Kamloops, Achoba says, are those that do not have their basic needs met — and do not live at Rosethorn.

Whether it’s vandalism, defecation or campfires, “It’s a cry for help,” he said.

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To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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