People displaced after supportive housing funding gets axed

Port Alberni, BC

A supportive housing facility in Port Alberni for individuals experiencing substance use issues has had to close its doors after Island Health chose not to renew a contract with the service provider.

The New Leaf opened 12 recovery beds in the community in 2015 for people working towards recovery from substance use. Island Health funded six of those beds until they recently chose not to renew the contract with New Leaf owner Lisa George.

George said five people were displaced following the facility’s closure and seven staff members were let go.  

“Losing six (supportive beds) in the community is a huge loss, let alone everything that we did trying to fill gaps and a continuum. The five people that were there, every one of them transitioned to somewhere outside of this community…because there was no where here in town for them to go,” George said. “So not only was it disruptive for my one [client] to come from Ahousaht to Port Alberni, but he had to transition out of Port Alberni again when this service closed down.”

George said the New Leaf ran a 90-day recovery program and were still getting referrals for clients up until they closed on Sept. 30.

“[Island Health] only gave me 60 days notice so some of our folks couldn’t even complete their 90 days,” George said. “We’re almost further behind than two or three years ago when we started combating the homeless crisis, the opioid epidemic and the pandemic, so now we have all three of these things against us.”

George said she would understand if Island Health had plans for funding another service provider in the community, and therefore couldn’t renew the contract for the New Leaf, but she said a facility should have been opened when her’s closed for people needing recovery services.

“I don’t care if they want to do something bigger or better…that’s fine, but you need timing and planning. You don’t close one door without opening another,” George said. “We’re now down all these beds, where are the people going? What service do we have for these folks now?”

Island Health said they are committed to replacing the recovery beds lost at the New Leaf and will potentially expand capacity with a broader range of services.

“The funding allocated for these beds has not been lost or re-allocated to another community or service area,” said Island Health. “We are making every effort and working closely with local partners to develop an improved service model for the region.”

Island Health said as part of a planned transition away from the New Leaf, a plan was put in place to ensure that those requiring services will be offered appropriate help in a location “that is acceptable to them.”

“It is not anticipated that the closure will result in a break in access to services or a delay in services for those who require them,” Island Health said. “No existing clients were impacted by the transition. New referrals continue to be accepted, assessed to determine suitability and best fit, and people continue to be offered appropriate services in a number of alternative sites.”

When asked why they chose to not renew their contract with the New Leaf, Island Health said they review arrangements with contracted service providers on an ongoing basis and that in some situations, “opportunities are identified to change the way services are funded and delivered, to expand the benefit of the services and improve access and efficiency.”

Last year, the Port Alberni Shelter Society (PASS) received $1 million in funding from the provincial government for six long-term recovery beds for women.

The six beds in Port Alberni will be located at the Port Alberni Shelter Society’s new Therapeutic Recovery Community located at the Shelter Farm, about 10 minutes from Port Alberni at 725 Franklin River Road.

The six recovery beds will be part of a three-year program.

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