Interior Health (IH) is looking at creating a new short-term housing option in Kelowna for people struggling with, what it describes as, “substance use and unstable living conditions.”
The health authority put out a request for expressions of interest on Thursday to see if there are service providers willing and able to provide the beds “immediately.”
IH describes the potential new spaces as “substance use stabilization beds” or “stabilization and transition services beds.”
IH envisions people using the stabilization beds for one or two weeks after they’ve finished “acute detox,” before or after inpatient treatment or while moving into or out of other housing.
The health authority is looking for any potential operator to provide 24-hour supervision for the site, as well as support services to residents.
Residents would be expected to pay for a portion of the housing cost, it says.
IH said, if established, the stabilization beds would be temporary and would only be in place for up to a year-and-a-half.
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However, the health authority’s request for expressions of interest document makes it clear Interior Health is hasn’t committed to going ahead with the project.
The proposal comes as Kelowna continues to grapple with homelessness.
The city’s newest shelter, the Welcome Inn on Ellis Street, opened this week with spots for around 20 people.
Welcome Inn spokesperson Jason Siebenga admitted it is a band-aid solution but one he said is necessary during winter weather.
It is eventually expected to expand to 40 beds, but will close at the end of March.
“The expectation is that people will be able to move into other shelters, and there’s also some bridge housing opening in the spring to alleviate some of the pressure on the system,” Siebenga said.
The Welcome Inn shelter was announced as a stop-gap measure in mid-December after the City of Kelowna’s November decision to move people living outside on Leon Avenue to two other outdoor sites proved highly controversial.
The city said the homeless camp was moved due to concerns about hazardous living conditions.
—With files from Jules Knox and Darrian Matassa-Fung