The Provincial Government confirmed funding for the delivery of up to 20 complex care housing and supportive housing spaces in Kelowna on September 7, 2022. Multiple sites in the community will deliver complex care housing and support provided by Interior Health staff and contracted housing service providers. These complex care spaces will provide care beyond what is currently available in Kelowna, delivering the highest level of care outlined in the Provincial model of care.
The City has been a leading and consistent voice in the call for enhanced care and support for B.C. residents with complex health and mental health needs. Our Complex Needs Advocacy Paper was endorsed by City Council on Monday, July 12, 2021. It takes a regional collaborative approach to supporting people with complex needs. City Council’s endorsement authorizes Mayor Basran to collaborate with the Mayors of Vernon, West Kelowna, the District of Lake Country, and the Chief of the Okanagan Indian Band to advocate to provincial ministries and senior levels of government to fund infrastructure resources and create an integrated, systems-based model for delivering care.
The new complex care spaces in Kelowna are part of a broader housing model to support people with complex needs announced by the Province in 2022. The model integrates and coordinates work done by municipalities, BC Housing, Interior Health, regional service providers and the Province of BC to support people with complex needs, as recommended in the Complex Needs Advocacy Paper.
People with complex needs experience overlapping health conditions that can include challenges with mental wellness, substance use, cognitive, developmental, and physical disabilities that are further challenged by experiences of poverty and equitable access to service. Existing supports can be hard for people with complex needs to access because those supports are often provided by a multitude of organizations in various locations across the community, creating barriers to access for people with complex needs. An integrated, systems-based model for delivering care seeks to correct this situation.
People with complex needs experience overlapping conditions affecting their overall health and wellbeing. These can include substance use disorders, co-morbid developmental disabilities, acquired brain injuries and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, which often result in the experience of homelessness and frequent use of crisis and emergency services.
Supports are often provided by a multitude of different organizations, in a variety of locations across the community, creating barriers to access for people with complex needs.
Housing is a basic human right and plays an important role in health and well-being. It can provide a sense of identity, belonging and social support. Addressing the needs of people experiencing homelessness and reducing poverty all contribute to making Kelowna safe and inclusive for our most housing vulnerable.
Research has shown there are approximately 520 people experiencing homelessness in the Central Okanagan and nearly half of those individuals experience complex needs. There is an economic cost to homelessness beyond the human cost. Failing to address housing and health supports systems gaps results in a continued need for crisis responses, which come at a cost to social, health care and justice systems.
Complex Care Housing is an essential component in achieving the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society goal of eliminating homelessness by December 31, 2025.
Even with the introduction of up to 20 complex care spaces in Kelowna, there is significant need and opportunity to enhance the system of care for individuals with complex needs. The Complex Needs Advocacy Paper indicated 250 people in the Central Okanagan have complex needs, so there is more work to do.
There are systemic challenges in delivering this type of care. Systems, institutions and processes need to be decolonized and the various organizations and governments delivering services need to coordinate to effectively deliver care.
The Complex Needs Advocacy Paper provides a framework where municipalities, BC Housing, Interior Health, regional service providers, the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society and the Province of BC can address the systems gaps along the continuum of care that affect the Central Okanagan’s most housing vulnerable.
The Provincial Government announced a new housing model to support people with complex needs early in 2022, which is an important step toward an integrated and collaborative system of care.
The housing-first approach prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, ending their experience of homelessness and serving as a platform to access the supports they need to pursue personal goals and improve their quality of life. Safe, reliable housing is a right for everyone and is essential to the wellness of those with complex needs.
In the short term, investments will need to be made at all levels of government. However, longer-term, a housing-first approach will reduce costs. Failing to address housing and health supports systems gaps results in a continued need for crisis responses, which come at a cost to social, health care and justice systems. Providing housing to people experiencing homelessness, including those with complex needs, will reduce demand for these crisis responses.