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City Council votes to create more permanent Integrated Care Hub

The building at 342 Patrick Street, owned by the Salvation Army, is the preferred location for a more permanent Integrated Care Hub, which Kingston City Council voted in support of at their meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. Photo by Lucas Mulder.

At their meeting held the evening of Tuesday, Aug.11, 2020, Kingston City Council voted in favour of a report and recommendation regarding the creation of a new, more permanent Integrated Care Hub.

The report (available here) was added to the Council agenda last minute, due to the imperative nature of the recommendation before them “in order to ensure ongoing delivery” of the “critical service” that is currently being provided temporarily at the Integrated Care Hub in place at Artillery Park. The Artillery Park site for the Care Hub will only exist until the end of September, 2020.

In short, the report outlines that City Staff have been looking into options for a more permanent site for the Care Hub, and states that Staff considered existing City/agency property/properties available for lease “only because purchasing an entire property for a program that is just starting would be too premature.” The report also notes that Staff have been working with HIV/AIDS Regional Services (HARS) and Kingston Community Health Centres (KCHC) to review options of vacant properties available.

City Staff looked at three properties: The City/agency-owned property at 610 Montreal Street (former site of the Town Homes Kingston offices); the privately-owned property at 660 Montreal Street, and; the property at 342 Patrick Street, which is owned by the Salvation Army. Staff concluded that the Patrick Street location would “best meet the needs of the Integrated Care Hub as it would require minimal alterations to the existing building to meet optimal needs.”

The report also outlined that the current Integrated Care Hub includes Consumption Treatment Services, which are being used by people that are housed as well as clients staying at the Care Hub. The report indicated that, in order to accommodate the Consumption Treatment Service at the 342 Patrick Street location, Staff propose the use of a portable building which had previously been used for a Consumption Treatment Service in Ottawa until this month, which could be purchased or leased.

The recommendation asked that Council authorize the Mayor and City Clerk to enter into an agreement of up to $150,000 per year (from August 2020 to July 2021) to relocate the Care Hub. However, the report noted that Staff believe the preferred location on Patrick Street would have a lower lease cost (based on conversations with the property owner. The recommendation also asked Council to authorize the lease or acquisition of a portable up to $60,000 to establish Consumption Treatment Service at the new location. The total of $201,000 in funding, if approved, would come from the Homelessness Reserve to cover both the building and portable for one year.

Council discussion

Kingston City Council voted unanimously to create a new, permanent Integrated Care Hub on Patrick Street at their meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, but not before a half hour of discussion around the virtual horseshoe.

Mayor Bryan Paterson turned to Council for questions and discussion of the report and recommendation, turning the floor over first to Councillor Peter Stroud. Stroud asked City Staff what barriers there might be for this proposal to be a permanent option for the service. Ruth Noordegraaf, Director of Housing and Social Services responded, first apologizing for the report being added last minute, but noting that she believes Council can appreciate that Staff are trying to keep them up to date on finding a permanent option for the service.

“We are still, obviously, in conversation, so there are still a couple of questions that we need to work through, but for the potential barriers, obviously we are looking at the integrated care component and also the Consumption Treatment Site, which has to go through its own approval process with Health Canada and the Ministry of Health,” she said. “So that’s one component that we will need to work closely on with our partners.”

Noordegraaf also noted that Staff really want to work with the community in the area to ensure there is a good understanding of what the site will offer, how people can connect with it, and any other issues that might be raised in the neighbourhood.

Councillor Lisa Osanic asked Staff to explain what the building at 342 Patrick Street and the portable being recommended would be used for, respectively. Noordegraaf indicated that the Integrated Care Hub and associated services would be offered within the building, and that the portable would be used for the Consumption Treatment Site.

“And so people can stay over?” Osanic asked.

“It is considered a resting area over night,” Noordegraaf responded.

Councillor Mary Rita Holland was next to speak, and pressed Staff for clarification and definition on the differences between a shelter and an Integrated Care Hub. Noordegraaf responded, noting that the current Integrated Care Hub is “a wraparound model that is really focused on providing services to clients, not just obviously a shelter or an opportunity to drop in or to rest, but also to provide many other much needed services such as healthcare – medical, mental and physical health, and all sorts of services,” particularly noting that Housing First services are a priority for finding residences for those who attend.

“What is different from a shelter, again, is that we’re really focusing on how we can provide a low-barrier access for especially people that might have addictions issues,” she said. “You might be familiar with our One Roof model, which is kind of the youth version of the Integrated Care Hub, so it is really a new approach and it’s not just a shelter bed, it’s actually much more focused on that low-barrier access and wraparound services.”

Holland continued the line of questioning, noting that, if the City is going to call this site a permanent Integrated Care Hub, then Council needed to acknowledge that the new site would be open to the community, but that there wouldn’t necessarily be a guarantee. Noordegraaf responded that it is important for Council to note the other report that was also an addendum to the night’s agenda from the Housing and Homelessness Committee and the Arts and Recreation Committee, which is part of a bigger picture that sees the City going through a larger homelessness review.

“So the questions that you’re asking are really important questions, and we really need to, as a system, work towards that kind of real alignment between the different elements of the homelessness system,” Noordegraaf said.

She then explained that the current Integrated Care Hub has now been open for approximately 10 days 24/7 and that Staff is currently “working through a lot of those pieces, and the use and how we would approach that.”

“Ideally, we would be better in identifying how we refer people to the right services based on their needs, and again, we all know that there are lots of different needs, and we just want to provide a safe and caring space for everybody, regardless of if they have the ability to access a shelter or not,” she said.

Councillor Bridget Doherty then asked Staff to go over the timing of everything, asking if the new Integrated Care Hub site would definitely be ready for October 1, as the current Integrated Care Hub at Artillery Park closes at the end of September.

“Obviously, the reason why we’re bringing this report to council now, and with a short kind of time frame, is that, if everything works out, we would be able to transition and have this space open October 1,” Noordegraaf said. She also noted again that there are still a lot of questions Staff are working through, but that if they have access to the space in September, they should have ample time for that transition.

“Our preferred location also would not require a lot of work, so, especially on the Integrated Care Hub site, so we are quite confident that that would be realistic, obviously given we can work through some of our outstanding questions,” she said.

CAO Lanie Hurdle then explained that, if they were able to get Council’s support at the current meeting, Staff should be able to work through the process as quickly as possible to make the new Integrated Care Hub site available before the end of September.

“That is our goal,” she said.

Councillor Rob Hutchison — the Councillor for the district where both the current Integrated Care Hub and the proposed location for the permanent Integrated Care Hub on Patrick Street exist — then spoke to the importance of integrating the new site into the neighbourhood. He noted that there are already a number of social housing sites in the area, and that putting the Integrated Care Hub there will “put more stress on the neighbourhood.”

“If you know the neighbourhood, you know what I’m speaking about. There are providers there already, and generally the neighbours are quite good about it, but there are some problems that occur where I have to deal with the providers, and the police to some extent. So, I’m hoping that Staff will be taking some steps to ensure successful integration into the neighbourhood and that we’re not just opening a facility, but that we’re preparing to make it part of the neighbourhood in a workable fashion,” he said.

Noordegraaf responded that this element of the new Integrated Care Hub project was top-of-mind for City Staff, and that conversations had already begun regarding community engagement in the area.

“We’re very aware that this is a very key item of making this a successful transition and a successful service,” she said. “It’s definitely our priority.”

Councillor Jim Neill spoke last, and pointed out that he believes Kingston is the only city of its size that only has one shelter. He said that, in speaking with those who have been living in Belle Park, it’s been pointed out that the single shelter service is a problem. Using the example of himself and Councillor Simon Chapelle as parolees, Neill expressed that, if he showed up to the current shelter in the city and another known parolee was already there, he would be in breach of his parole if he stayed at the shelter. He also explained that, if he or anyone else was turned away from the shelter for whatever reason, there is nowhere else for them to go, and noted an upcoming City shelter review.

“Previously, we had as many as three shelters, and if somebody was refused for whatever reason in one, they had another option besides living in the rough or going elsewhere,” he said. “So I sincerely hope that the shelter review looks at the possibility of more than one shelter provider.”

Mayor Paterson then noted that Neill was speaking more to the report from the Housing and Homelessness Committee than to the recommendation and report before Council at the moment.

“I just had to get that off my chest,” Neill replied.

With that, Council voted to receive the report and endorse the recommendation unanimously. According to City Staff, work, which is already underway to secure the site at 342 Patrick Street, will continue immediately in order to attempt to have the permanent Integrated Care Hub open before the temporary one at Artillery Park closes at the end of September.

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