New housing model supports people with complex challenges

A first-of-its-kind complex-care housing program will soon be available for British Columbia’s most vulnerable people who need a level of support that goes beyond the current housing model, the Province announced on Thursday.

Complex-care housing is a groundbreaking approach to address the needs of people who have overlapping mental-health challenges, substance-use issues, trauma and acquired brain injuries and who are often left to experience homelessness. This program will provide an enhanced level of integrated health and social supports that serve people where they live. The first four housing sites will be in Surrey, Abbotsford and Vancouver.

“For too long, those who suffered from mental-health issues, substance-use or other complex challenges have struggled to get the care they need, when and where they need it,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “This groundbreaking approach will not only support our province’s most vulnerable to secure quality care and stable housing, it will also help our cities build healthier communities.”

Complex-care housing is voluntary and integrated within the health-care system with direct connections to treatment and specialized care that could include support from nurses, peer, social workers and other health professionals. These first four locations will serve approximately 100 people who need enhanced support beyond what is provided in existing supportive housing.

Government will monitor and evaluate implementation of complex-care housing services to inform areas of focus in future expansion.

“The current housing system is not working for those with serious mental-health and addiction issues who cycle in and out of shelters, jail and emergency rooms,” said David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing. “Pairing intensive health-care supports with housing to support people who are currently living in distress on our streets will improve not just the quality of life of everyone housed through this program, it will improve quality of life of the entire community.”

In addition to the various health, personal, social and job supports provided in supportive housing, the enhanced clinical and other services available in complex-care housing include:

* physical, mental-health and substance-use care;

* psychosocial rehabilitation supports;

* social, emotional and community supports;

* personal care and personal living supports;

* Indigenous cultural supports; and

* co-ordination and navigation services.

Complex-care housing is a component of the provincial homelessness strategy. The Government of B.C. worked with housing and health-system partners, Indigenous partners, people with lived experience and municipal governments to develop a complex-care housing framework and selection criteria for these sites.


RESPONDING to the announcement, the B.C. Urban Mayors’ Caucus (BCUMC) Co-Chairs, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, released the following statement on behalf of the Caucus’s 13 member Mayors:

“We are pleased to see the Province taking these important first steps to implement a new model of complex care housing and supports that our communities and vulnerable residents urgently need and have been calling for. We are glad to see a number of the BCUMC’s recommendations reflected in this model.

“The four sites set to open imminently is a good first step. Minister Malcolmson, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction, and the Provincial Government have expressed to the caucus their desire for ongoing support and commitment to this program. While this announcement of 98 new complex care spaces is much welcomed and has been highly anticipated, many of our communities across B.C. are still in critical need to see this model in place.

“We continue to advocate strongly for additional funding to be allocated to expand complex care housing and supports and we hope that the 2022 provincial budget will reflect further commitments.

“Complex care housing will make a real difference in the lives of our most vulnerable residents. It’s time to try new approaches to housing and to increase the level of care and support services. We look forward to working with the Province and our health authorities to support them in getting these first four sites, and future sites, open as quickly as possible.”

The BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus (BCUMC) is a non-partisan group of mayors from Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, New Westminster, Prince George, Richmond, Saanich, Surrey, Vancouver and Victoria.

Earlier this month, the BCUMC released a video urging the Province to take immediate action on complex care housing, highlighting the strain that leaving those with complex needs out on the streets is having on our communities and on the vulnerable people requiring care.