Government groups, non-profits look to establish North Shore hub to help homeless

Social support hub eyed

A City of Kamloops manager says several groups have partnered to find a site on the North Shore which would offer shelter services, storage, supervised consumption and other supports for homeless people in Kamloops.

Carmin Mazzotta, City of Kamloops social, housing and community development manager, told council on Tuesday the intent is to establish a North Shore Access Hub while looking for opportunities to expand the model in other parts of the city.

He said the city, BC Housing, Interior Health, the provincial Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, the North Shore and downtown Kamloops business improvement associations and social agencies are forming a committee to help move the project forward.

“The community partners who came together recently believe a collective approach is needed — something that looks a little different than what we may have done in the past,” he said.

“This is in recognition that local shelter and social housing operators often face a lot of burden in terms of community criticism and backlash for what are, ultimately, systemic issues affecting all municipalities where housing has become out of reach for the majority of the working class and many in the middle class.”

Mazzotta said the envisioned hub would include shelter services, a day space, culturally safe supports, mental health and substance use services and connections to off-site resources.

The space would also include a supervised consumption site, providing a place for people who inhale or smoke drugs.

According to Mazzotta, the site will also include security cameras, fences and screens to provide privacy and “reduce impact on adjacent street frontages.” Clean up and outreach teams are expected to patrol the site and surrounding area.

Coun. Dale Bass asked Mazzotta if the group has identified a property yet.

“We're working hard at some options right now and trying to move something forward. Having all the partners at the table is really helpful,” Mazzotta replied.

“That's really all I can say at this time until a site is confirmed.”

He said as soon as a property is found, engagement with neighbouring businesses and residents will begin, noting this will be a "key focus" of this project.

“The group that recently came together agreed that with winter approaching, there is an immediate need for shelter services and properly managed daytime space on the North Shore,” Mazzotta said.

“A staged approach could be used to build in the additional services noted previously, working with urgency over the subsequent months.”

Coun. Katie Neustaeter said she was excited to hear this project was moving forward.

“It's a wonderful vision that's desperately needed,” she said.

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