52 Supportive Housing Units
Orca Place is a Supportive Housing program that takes place in a modular style apartment building built by BC Housing on land owned by the City of Parksville. Opened in August of 2019, the building contains 52 studio and one bedroom suites, including 6 accessible units. It provides housing, support, and programs to Oceanside residents who have been assessed and recommended by the local HOST team.
Island Crisis Care Society provides 24/7 staffing for the program, providing support and security for residents. The three-story building has been designed to suit the architectural style of the neighbourhood and each home includes a private bathroom and a kitchen.
The type of housing is classified as “long term supportive housing.”
ICCS staff provide support to residents as well as security and management. Individuals who participate in the program sign a program agreement and work with staff on a personal care plan that maps the services and supports they need to stabilize their housing and move forward with their life goals.
Security includes a personal room with a locking door, 24 hours staffing, and a variety of standard security measures such as well lit and fenced grounds, extensive camera monitoring, and a controlled entrance. All guests to the property are required to check in and out at the welcome centre and follow rules for conduct and safety.
Support includes encouragement, care, and resources that allow people to gain or maintain health and well being. At Orca Place support is tied to individualized plans that outline each person’s unique needs, goals, and plans for the future. With these personal plans as a guide program participants, staff, and health care professionals work together on strategies to overcome barriers and challenges. The Housing First model endorsed by the Canadian Government requires integrated support for success.
Stability is firstly about predictable, reliable shelter people can count on. Program participants receive support to maintain their participation in the program, including 2 daily meal services for as long as they choose to live here, and as long as they comply with their program agreement. People with a goal to move to housing will be supported to do so.
Two or more employees are on site at all times. Support Workers maintain security and safety within the building, and to promote and foster a good neighbour relationship with the surrounding neighbourhood.
Volunteers receive specific screening and training to work with vulnerable adults. Though volunteer activity was suspended during phase one of the Covid-19 outbreak, involvement is resuming with new safety measures in place.
In 2010 the City of Parksville formed the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness to examine and address homelessness and related issues. Made up of local and regional governments, service agencies, and concerned citizens the Task Force is supported by the region’s MLA and MP. It is co-chaired by the executive directors of the SOS, Forward House, and ICCS.
The Task Force provided the resources for two point-in-time homeless counts; the first in 2011 and the second in 2013. From these counts, gaps in services and solutions were identified.
Why is support provided to program participants?
There are a variety of supports that increase a program participant’s ability to maintain their apartment and move towards greater freedom and responsibility. These include individualized care plans to further develop life and social skills. Employment planning is offered, along with pre-employment skill development (see the Handmade for Hope section above). Staff offer assistance to manage transitions to independence and recovery. Other services include outreach workers, wellness checks, and psychosocial support.
Are program participants drug users?
The program is designed to provide individualized support to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Substance use is often associated with this underserved population. There is a large body of medical and social science evidence that supports the effectiveness of housing and support in reducing substance use, and promoting recovery. In addition, not all people who experience homelessness have or develop substance use issues.
Program participants make their own choices regarding lifestyle and ICCS staff encourage a recovery goals as part of wellness planning. Staff also remind participants of appropriate and respectful behaviour at home and in the community as agreed to in their program agreement. Substance use and mental health challenges are addressed through individual care plans which include referrals to Island Health and related services. Staff promote a recovery and wellness culture. We know from experience that supportive housing helps those contemplating sobriety follow through on plans to find treatment and support for their recovery plans.
Where did the name, Orca Place, come from?
Orca Place was chosen by vote among the members of the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness.