Assisted Living Programs

Safe Harbour House staff ICCS

There are four assisted living programs at ICCS and John manages all of them as well as our new recovery program, David’s Place. On a warm and sunny day we meet at Safe Harbour house and sit outside in the garden’s pagoda for the interview.

John oversees Safe Harbour House, Crescent House (both of which are assisted living programs), the Bridge, our recovery assisted living program, and Hirst House which is a combination of crisis stabilization and supportive living supports. In addition, he manages our newest recovery program, David’s Place.

Safe Harbor House is a five bed program with one overflow bed and has a recovery focus. The Bridge, adjacent to Safe Harbour House, is also a five bed program with one overflow bed. It provides long term supportive stays to clients who have reached a level of stability in their recovery but benefit from continuing support.

Crescent House has 6 crisis stabilization beds providing longer stabilization for individuals in need of additional services.

Hirst House provides 6 assisted living/crisis stabilization beds to clients from Oceanside and surrounding communities. All assisted living programs are co-ed and are regulated under the assisted living legislation in BC. There is always an assessment before a resident arrives at any of the sites and everything has to go through the Mental Health Substance Use Team with Island Health.

Once clients arrive at one of the programs they are provided with a private room. Stays can be from one night to several months. Often, clients are transitioning from one place to another and the assisted living program can fill in the gap in between.

The Bridge can accommodate longer stays because clients tend to be a little further along in their recovery journey. Staff tries to keep the program as substance free as possible. The goal is to provide a quiet, low stimulation environment.

John explains that “a problem that happens is folks will get through the three months, they’re stable, they’re not using and they’re in a good place. There’s nowhere for them to go, so they end up back in their previous environment. So we have been having conversations about whether we have capacity for a second stage recovery program where folks can stay longer and we can support them.

Our new supportive recovery program, David’s Place, will do just that. Opening in July, clients of the David’s Place Recovery Program will be provided stable housing, nutritious food, mental health resources, tools that support greater resiliency and strength, and individualized support plans for up to 18 months. Recognizing that the cost for such vital programs typically presents a significant barrier for people to access services, space at the Recovery Program will be accessible to everyone (Find out more about David’s Place. To donate to the program go here)

A typical day in any of the assisted living programs starts with staff making breakfast. “We provide shelter and food so that the residents staying with us can focus on their recovery,” John says and adds that “for other clients it might be building better habits to manage their mental health. We look after laundry while they’re staying with us. We provide three meals a day and two snacks. We also provide programming.”

Currently, there are recreational nights like movie nights and yoga and meditation are being offered. As well, staff is working on arranging field trips in the future,“ John explains. “All of that helps destigmatize,” John explains. “A lot of the time when folks come here there is a reason they ended up here and they’re trying to make sense of that and reflect on their part in it and everybody else’s part,” he adds.

Hirst House, Crescent House and Safe Harbour House are staffed 24 hours. The Bridge is staffed 8 hours a day and the other 16 hours a day, if clients need support for an emergency, they can access the staff at Safe Harbour, but the idea is that they’re able to be self sufficient on their own.

Sarah, the assistant manager, works with John making sure that all 20 staff in all programs have ongoing support. This includes ensuring that all sites have food, paperwork and scheduling are taken care of and any problems that come up are handled.

John helps manage workloads and steps in if there are difficulties in communication between the front line staff and Island Health. He also takes care of hiring staff, training, oversees the budgets of the programs and makes sure the amount of money being spent is accurate.

“If an emergency comes up, whether it’s staffing or something with the physical property, we’re usually the first point of contact,” John explains and continues “our staff have to be able to work alone. They have to be independent and able to deal with a situation as it comes up. So I really try to mentor my staff and tell them ‘when you’re here, you’re the one holding down the ship.’”

Asked about his background, John says he worked for about 25 years with high risk youth and wanted to take a break from it. “It was very front line focused and I worked my way up. After that I worked at a few different organizations. After a number of years I just got to a point where I decided I wanted to take a step back and decide what I want to do for the rest of my life. What do I see myself doing” he asked himself. He then went into ministry for five years before returning to social services.

John spent a year in the inner city working with folks who were dealing with homelessness and felt a call there. “A lot of the high risk youth I used to work with end up in that world. And what I noticed is there’s a line up a mile long of people who want to go save kids, but as soon as they turn 18 or 19, nobody cares anymore. And those were the kids I’d been working with for the last five, ten years. So I wanted to start working with them as adults, because that’s who I encountered in the inner city.” John explains.

After moving to the Island John started working at ICCS. With his background in ministry and his desire to work with the unhoused population, being a part of a faith based organization such as ICCS is a great fit.