An Abbotsford hotel that was sold to the province last year through BC Housing was announced Thursday (Jan. 20) as one of four “complex care” facilities in the Lower Mainland.
The Red Lion, located at 2509 Pauline St., will offer spaces for people whose mental illness and drug habits can take them from supportive housing to the streets to jail.
Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson made the announcement, saying that the housing facilities are being upgraded to add spaces to handle people with aggressive behaviour.
The first will be in Surrey, followed by two in Vancouver and the one in Abbotsford.
Malcolmson said the Red Lion will have eight units of complex-care housing, although that could move to another location.
Complex-care housing addresses the needs of people who have overlapping mental-health challenges, substance-use issues, trauma and acquired brain injuries who often experience homelessness.
The housing is voluntary and can connect those in need to treatment and specialized care, which can include support from nurses, peers, social workers and other health professionals.
Other services include physical, mental-health and substance use care; social, emotional and community supports; personal care and personal living supports; and Indigenous cultural supports.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said the city is grateful for the announcement.
“Complex care will provide vital supports for those vulnerable residents who need it the most and is a welcome addition to our Homeless Prevention and Response System,” Braun said.
Shayne Williams from Lookout Housing, whose services include the Riverside Shelter in Abbotsford, said during Thursday’s announcement that complex care helps connect and navigate people to better services.
“That could look like home care. It could look like counselling, nursing, early diagnosis, early intervention,” he said.
“Currently, with supportive housing, I have the opportunity to engage and do individualized case planning. This gets us a little deeper in that case planning and to truly help people on their journey to wellness, in partnership with our health authority partners.”
Malcolmson said the hope is that the services can be provided to people such as those who move into supportive housing and are disruptive or evicted and then became homeless, with repeated calls to police about them.
“Our intention is that these complex people that haven’t been able to retain housing in the past – no fault of their own – that we want them to succeed, and we have a commitment not to evict them to homelessness,” she said.
The province announced in June 2021 that it had purchased the former Red Lion Inn to provide temporary shelter space for people experiencing homelessness.
At that time, the plan was to provide 30 temporary spaces for people who were staying at the Bakerview Church shelter, which closed on June 30.
The province said it was also purchasing the hotel’s adjacent lots at 2481 and 2489 Pauline St.
BC Housing said, over the long term, they would apply for rezoning to redevelop the hotel and lots into a permanent supportive housing building with an adjoined shelter.
The facility will continue to provide regular supportive housing but will offer additional supports through the complex-housing model.
The B.C. government is providing $4.8 million for the 100 complex-care spaces at the four sites, paid from the health ministry budget and transferred to the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health regions, who will hire contractors to run the sites.
– with files from Tom Fletcher