At next week’s council meeting, city staff will ask council to extend the lease for Kingston’s Integrated Care Hub (ICH) by five months.
According to the city, the lease extension to Dec. 31 of this year would address the “ongoing urgent need to provide this 24/7 low-barrier service for vulnerable individuals who are unable to access other services.”
“There is no question that services at the ICH have been and continue to be utilized by many people and that the ICH has filled an important gap in the community,” says the city’s CAO Lanie Hurdle.
“Based on the data collected, in the absence of this continued service, there would be a significant increase in overdoses, hospital visits, people sleeping in the rough, and possibly an additional shelter required to meet the demand on vulnerable populations.”
The hub, run by the city, HIV/AIDS Regional Services (HARS) and Kingston Community Health Centres (KCHC), was created to support vulnerable and homeless populations in Kingston who could not find housing during the pandemic. It offers counseling, a place to rest, three meals per day and other supports. Following its first iteration at Artillery Park, it moved to its 661 Montreal St. location in November 2020.
But, since its short time in existence, Hurdle said it’s become apparent that those using the hub are not simply suffering from a lack of appropriate housing, but many are also dealing with significant medical challenges.
“There is a major medical component of work – including mental health and addictions – that needs to be addressed in order to assist individuals in living and thriving in housing,” Hurdle said.
Despite the proposed continuation of the lease, the city admitted that there have been “security challenges” in the neighbourhood relating to the hub, which has prompted the city to bump up security in the area, including daily patrols and temporary fencing installed along the K&P Trail.
City staff have also been searching for other properties that might accommodate the hub, but have yet to find an alternative location.
Staff are proposing that more than $450,000 be allocated for the lease from the Provincial Social Services Relief Fund.
“Neither the lease extension nor the operations will have any impact on municipal property taxes,” the city said in a news release.
Despite this immediate lease extension, city staff says if the work at the hub is to continue, other levels of government will have to step in to help fund the project.
“Moving forward, it will be critical for the city to secure long-term, permanent funding for the ICH,” the city said.