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Burnaby to get 10 new complex-care homes for people with significant health challenges

BC Housing and Fraser Health team up for complex-care housing in Burnaby.
A complex-care home run by Interior Health.

Ten complex-care housing units are coming to Burnaby to support people with overlapping mental-health, addiction and housing challenges.

Now BC Housing has asked the city to help find a good location to build the homes as part of a joint program with Fraser Health.

Complex-care housing has health care on site to support adults with significant health issues, including mental-health and substance-use challenges, said Becky Doherty, Fraser Health’s clinical director of mental health and substance use.

The voluntary housing program offers enhanced, integrated support services, including overnight care, Doherty told council late last month.

She said people are very ill when they enter the program.

“They are individuals who have been homeless or at risk of homelessness, surviving day-to-day and not able to attend to their healthcare needs,” Doherty said.

She said one of the tasks of the co-ordinated complex-care team is to develop trust and make connections with the individuals, which brings them to a place where they can address some of their health-care needs and stay housed.

She said complex care differs from other programs due to the close working partnership between housing and healthcare providers.

“This is really integrated. It’s one team working together with individuals,” she said, noting on-site staff are trained in concurrent disorders and cultural safety.

Staff include nurses, social workers, cultural support workers and care aides, and they have the ability to connect people with psychiatrists and addiction medicine, Doherty said.

The provincial program funds the capital and operating costs of the program, according to Naomi Brunemeyer, BC Housing’s director of regional development.

BC Housing plans to lease or purchase the land and develop and build the project, and then it would provide access to operating funding for the property management service.

Brunemeyer said Fraser Health would provide “significant resources for the clinical-based staff that would be required.”

She noted Burnaby currently has a shelter program and two supportive housing programs.

“We feel that the addition of complex care housing is the next logical step to address the health and housing concerns of your community,” she said, adding it was a “missing piece” BC Housing had advocated for.

She asked Burnaby to look at its inventory of land and see what sites could be made available for a long-term lease to BC Housing.

The project could be embedded as part of a larger housing program, for example with additional supportive housing.

Brunemeyer said the housing operator would be selected in a competitive, public request for proposals process.

She added BC Housing plans to undertake a “robust” public engagement process on the project.

Three other Fraser Health municipalities were also tapped to get complex-care housing: Abbotsford and Surrey will get 20 units each and New Westminster will get 10.

In April, the province announced it would fund a total of 240 new complex-care housing units.