Committee hopes to have North Shore social support hub running by winter

Social support hub ahead?

The City of Kamloops says a future North Shore access hub — a site where the city’s most vulnerable residents can access shelter and supports — could be operational by the winter.

Carmin Mazzotta, the city’s assistant community and culture director, said the table of partnered agencies and groups working to establishing the access hub is currently focused on securing a site.

“Our hope would be to secure something here in the near term that we can announce in the next month or two and that could be operationalized by winter,” Mazzotta said.

The access hub is envisioned to be a 24/7 facility where homeless people can access shelter, meals, amenity space, culturally safe supports, health services and connections to housing and supportive employment.

The leadership committee working to launch the access hub involves representatives from the city, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and local social agencies, as well as BC Housing, Interior Health and the provincial ministry of social development. The city’s business improvement associations are also involved.

The committee formed in fall 2023, hosted by the City of Kamloops — which has worked to bring partners and resources together and is helping BC Housing identify potential sites.

“It really is a strong table and is focused on that collaboration and to wrap supports around a site,” Mazzotta said.

He said given the short timeline, the group is looking to secure a site with an existing building which BC Housing can either acquire or lease. He said group members are also working on longer-term options which could house more of a purpose-built model.

Mazzotta said BC Housing will be the primary funder, and will be responsible for identifying an operator for the future site.

He noted key pieces of the access hub model are communication and engagement. Once a site is secured, surrounding residents and businesses will be invited to a public engagement session in partnership with BC Housing and the operator.

“Folks can come in person and learn about programming offered, have their concerns addressed, potentially learn about opportunities to volunteer if it's of interest, and to have contact information — where can you call if you have concerns,” Mazzotta said.

“That's all going to be really key to this as we build this out heading into the fall and winter. And then trying to see how we can, through coordination of resources, leverage this partnership model to really wrap supports around the site.”

He said “the number one thing Kamloops has going for it” when it comes to responding to social issues is its community partnerships — what the access hub seeks to leverage.

“The biggest strength that we have as a community is the collaboration and the willingness to work together among our nonprofits to serve our most vulnerable people. That is something — you don't see it like that in every community,” he said.

Carla Mantie, Interior Health’s director of clinical operations for mental health and substance use, told Castanet Kamloops it’s been “an amazing experience” to be part of the access hub committee. She said the group has been meeting about once per month.

Mantie said in the past several years, there’s been an increase in complexity when it comes to mental health and addictions issues — making it important to expand partnerships to respond to the need.

She said the access hub is a good example of this partnership model.

“People are definitely coming to us with more complex concerns, and so it takes a team. It takes a team of multidisciplinary, and sometimes multi agencies, to be able to support people where they're at,” she said.

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