As of Nov. 1, 661 Montreal St. will be the site for the new integrated care hub for the most vulnerable population in Kingston, Ont.
“The name says it all — truly integrated, based on care and a hub,” said Mike Bell, CEO of Kingston Community Health Centres, one of the many partners involved in the project.
Since July, Artillery Park has been home to hundreds of homeless people including many who were camped out at Belle Park over the summer months.
Artillery Park has been a temporary solution for a much larger issue that many in the city of Kingston are facing.
“On average we see 250 people access the space every day,” said Gilles Charette, executive director for HARS Kingston.
The city of Kingston says the new care hub will offer similar services to Artillery Park including healthy food and a place to rest, along with consumption and treatment services offered by the Street Health Centre.
City officials say they landed on this location in particular because it is in a more accessible area.
However, many local businesses and residents have criticized the location, including owners of Quattrocchi’s Specialty Foods. Their business is located right across the street, and they say the location just doesn’t fit.
In fact, there’s a petition going to city hall with 186 names on it saying “no” to the location.
Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson told Global News that he understands the concerns voiced by local residents.
“We hear you and we’re all trying to work together on this as a community. And I think we can do it, I think we can be absolutely successful with it. So I think that will help to address those concerns,” said Paterson.
Ruth Noordegraaf, the city’s director of housing and social services, said as a 24-hour centre there will always be staff on-site, as well as video cameras installed.
Though the new integrated care hub will provide more choices for the city’s homeless population, some have previously said they prefer to have a place to stay long-term.
“The ideal scenario is that people would be stabilized and then moving to a more permanent solution,” said Noordegraaf.
“Many of the people that we serve at the integrated care hub are people who have experiences of substance use and who face challenges accessing other community services. The objective of the integrated care hub is to assist people where they’re at with choices,” said Charette.
The new care hub is seen as a positive step forward in helping the city’s growing homeless population, however, city officials say there is still a lot more work that needs to be done, including continuing to build affordable and sustainable housing.
–With files from Global News’ Mike Postovit