City Council voted to continue operating the Integrated Care Hub (ICH) at Artillery Park for one more month at their meeting on Tuesday, Sep. 15, 2020.
The decision comes after a report from City CAO Lanie Hurdle said staff need more time to secure and prepare the new permanent location. The ICH was supposed to leave Artillery Park by Wednesday, Sep. 30, however the property the city had been eyeing for October fell through.
The city is now planning to move the ICH to 661 Montreal St, the former site of Burton’s Sanitation.
A former industrial site, a variety of chemical pollutants from past uses had previously contaminated the soil. A 2019 Record of Site Condition by XCG Consultants Ltd outlined the work required to make the property safe for more sensitive uses, such as residential, commercial or community services.
The building’s owner Ben Pilon has confirmed to the Kingstonist that the work — including covering contaminated areas of the ground and installing a new HVAC system — has been on-going since last year. His company, BPE will have the remediation requirements as well as interior finishes completed a few weeks before the city’s Nov. 1 lease date, he said. This will allow the City time to get in and complete their setup.
Dr Moore: Integrated Care Hub ‘essential’
The Integrated Care Hub houses a variety of services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in the Kingston area. The idea is to provide a low-barrier of access for people that may have a complex variety of needs in their efforts to obtain stable housing.
HIV/Aids Regional Services (HARS), Kingston Community Health Centre, Frontenac Paramedics, The City of Kingston, Street Health, and Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health have all coordinated operations at the ICH since it opened mid-July.
“I think the concept of an ICH at this time is essential,” said KFL&A Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore, addressing Council in a delegation Tuesday night. “I think we’re all aware that sadly deaths continue to mount in our community secondary to the fentanyl and opioid crisis. Just in the first four months of this year, we had one young member of our community dying on average every seven to 10 days.”
When the summer statistics are released, Dr. Moore said he expects the trend to continue.
“I am an investigative coroner,” he told Council. “I have been at the scenes and I have had to try to explain these deaths to family members, to parents, to siblings, and the tragedy continues. This is a true epidemic.”
Dr. Moore said the City has been very responsive to the needs of Kingston’s vulnerable and that the ICH is a success. He said the ICH averages 150 visits a day, has provided 120 total nights access, 546 showers and over 4000 meals.
“The number of naloxone kits handed out and I think overdoses prevented continues to be significant,” Dr. Moore added. “Over 1000 kits handed out in the first six months of this year, we handed out 250 total last year.”
“The response is great,” he concluded. “The Council has supported this vulnerable population and we need to continue to do so.”
One councillor opposed
The motion to extend the location of the ICH at Artillery Park passed by a vote of ten to one, with only Councillor Simon Chapelle opposed.
“The idea of extending the services at a public location like Artillery Park does raise concern for the residents in the area,” Chapelle said.
“I find it a very challenging topic to address because, yes we need to support those vulnerable people, but by the same token we are disenfranchising so many Kingston residents,” he said.
Chapelle said he is receiving calls from residents in the Artillery Park area concerned about lack of access to the community centre, and late-night police visits to the neighbourhood.