City of Kingston staff are recommending the city delay relocating the Integrated Care Hub (ICH) for 30 days, until the end of October 2020. The change comes after their plans to lease a building on Patrick Street fell through.
“City staff worked to secure the Patrick Street site, but a few weeks into negotiations, the property owner notified staff that it was no longer sure of its interest in leasing the property for the purpose of operating the ICH,” said a report from City CAO Lanie Hurdle. The property is owned by the Salvation Army.
Hurdle said City staff have now turned their attention to a second option at 661 Montreal Street. They are reportedly finalizing details of the agreement. Due to interior finishes and upgrades required on the property, Hurdle said 661 Montreal Street could not be ready for Sep. 30, 2020, the date the ICH was set to cease operations at Artillery Park.
“In order to allow for a seamless transition of this service in the community, an extension of one month for the use of Artillery Park will be required,” the report said.
Furthermore, City staff are recommending that the funding previously approved to lease a portable at 342 Patrick Street be redirected to cover costs of “interior finishes.”
“In the last week, City staff turned their attention to the building at 661 Montreal Street which was also identified as an option on the Council report on August 11. Staff has been able to work with the 661 Montreal Street property owner and are finalizing details of an agreement,” the report to City Council reads, noting that the site works for both the ICH and Consumption and Treatment Services, and that both HIV/AIDS Regional Services (HARS) Kingston and Kingston Community Health Centres (who operated the ICH and Consumption and Treatment Services respectively) have indicated the site is the preferred location for the ICH.
“The challenge with this property is that interior finishes and some upgrades will not be completed before the end of September,” the report continues.
The 661 Montreal Street site had previously gone through the tax sale process, which failed. It was appropriated by the Province as a result of the dissolution of the corporation that owned it previously, Burton’s Sanitation Ltd. The property was then sold with a brownfield agreement in place. According to City of Kingston documents, the property is registered to a numbered company, 1880561 Ontario Inc, associated with BPE Developments Inc. It is unclear whether or not the remediation required at the property has been carried out yet. Kingstonist will look into that matter in the coming days.
Artillery Park was established as a temporary location for the Integrated Care Hub (ICH) in July, providing “low barrier services” for homeless people or those at risk of homelessness. The ICH offers daily meals, Consumption and Treatment Services, an overnight resting area and access to other social service providers.
The city had reportedly been planning to move towards an ICH model in favour of traditional shelters. The COVID-19 pandemic and the establishment of a homeless encampment at Belle Park this expedited the transition.
The ICH began 24-hour operation on Friday July 31, 2020, with the Consumption and Treatment Services moving onsite on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. City Council heard at their meeting on Tuesday, Sep. 1 2020 that the integrated delivery of services works so well that demand for service already exceeds the current capacity.
Gilles Charette, Executive Director of HIV / AIDS Regional Services, confirmed on Friday, Sep. 11 that the sleeping area in the ICH continues to fill up nightly. However, he noted that individuals can still be accommodated in the drop-in area of the hub if “rest pods” are full.
While City Council will vote on whether or not to extend the ICH’s occupancy at Artillery Park on Tuesday, Sep. 15, Hurdles report indicates clearly that they have no other options.
“At this point, there are no other properties that are properly located in the core city, have the appropriate space and layout and could be fully available within the next two months,” it said. “The only option to maintain this service is to extend the access at Artillery Park for one month until 661 Montreal Street is ready.”
With files from Tori Stafford and Cris Vilela.