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Supportive housing, complex care priority for Kamloops: B.C. housing minister

FILE PHOTO - Attorney General and Minister of Housing Minister David Eby spoke to Kamloops city council about complex care models on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2022.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Province of B.C.

Supportive housing and complex care in Kamloops is a top priority for B.C.'s housing minister.

David Eby, B.C. minister and attorney general, spoke to Kamloops city council yesterday, Jan. 26, to brief municipal leaders on some of the ministry's future plans.

Kamloops is one of the sites identified for complex care, and Eby said he knows Minister of Mental Health Sheila Malcolmson is aware.

Last week, the province announced four new complex care sites planned for Surrey, Abbotsford and Vancouver, which will be housing facilities that are voluntary but "integrated" within the health-care system.

The program will focus on helping tenants with mental health challenges and addictions, where nurses, social workers and other health-care workers will be on staff, according to a minstry news release.

READ MORE: 'Falling through the cracks': City councillor looks for answers on Kelowna's street entrenched population

There are multiple supportive housing sites in Kamloops and emergency shelters remain full, but Eby said complex care is a priority that will be headed by health-care workers for the minority of people for whom the supportive housing model just isn't enough.

"I think one of the challenges we've faced in Kamloops, but not exclusively... is there are 80% of people who go into supportive housing and that is the level of support they need to be successful and do well in a building," Eby said. "And for the other 15% to 20% of people, it's not enough."

Eby said that minority of people who may set fires, act violently or make "bad decisions" rooted in active addictions can leave the entire supportive housing facility to be blamed for problems within the building or the neighbourhood. This, he said, places added pressure on a governing body that is supportive of these projects.

"The next site faces double the challenge as the last one did. So because of that, Kamloops is a big priority for me personally," Eby said. "All these things, I fear, run the risk of costing us social license for opening up supportive housing."

READ MORE: B.C. urban mayors renew call for complex care for vulnerable people across B.C.

The complex care model is headed by health authorities, he said, but he could not say if there is ongoing planning for complex care in Kamloops or throughout the Interior Health region at the moment.

However, he acknowledged that short staffing and staff burn out has placed added challenges on the health-care system across the province, which may leave expansion of health services difficult.

"Health-care authorities are very enthusiastic about this program. They see how this can reduce burdens on them in the emergency room and other frontline responses," Eby said.

Meanwhile, Eby said his ministry is reviewing its homelessness strategy, which is aimed to be more proactive rather than reactive to issues on the streets.

This means addressing homelessness at its roots, which can often be traced to areas with "high government intervention," Eby said. By moving "upstream," youth in care or people coming out of prisons and hospitals may receive more government supports to prevent being at risk of homelessness.

"Rest assured that Kamloops has been identified as a priority on a provincial level," Eby said.

READ MORE: Kamloops doula delivering babies of street entrenched mothers calls for compassion

Mayor Ken Christian weighed in at the end of Eby's presentation to say he was "delighted" to hear that complex care may be "just around the corner" for Kamloops.

City council also voted on proposals to address homelessness at a municipal level, including the reopening of a "day space" on West Victoria Street.

The Gathering Place, at 48 West Victoria St., is a program run by the Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Society and The Mustard Seed, with the goal of directing people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to services they may need.

It is planned to reopen on April 1 and remain until Oct. 31.

The Gathering Place was one of two planned day spaces from last summer, but the North Shore location, Envision, did not come to fruition.

Envision eventually transitioned into a shuttle and outreach service headed by Canadian Mental Health Association, with support from ASK Wellness.

The City of Kamloops and B.C. Housing, which Eby is responsible for, is still developing a memorandum of understanding. The document is expected to direct the two governing bodies toward how they will partner on future housing projects and which projects are deemed a priority.


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