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Kamloops council tweaks social issues motion

Under the revision, the city will require BC Housing to provide wraparound services for transitional and supportive housing when it is deemed appropriate to do so.
Rosethorn House
Rosethorn House is downtown at 259 West Victoria St., right next to the Emerald Centre. According to Kamloops Coun. Bill Sarai, the social housing complex and the adjacent Emerald Centre shelter were the subject of 450 emergency calls in 2020.

Social agencies are no longer on the hook for wraparound services following revision this week to an earlier motion approved by Kamloops council.

Under the revision, the city will require BC Housing to provide wraparound services for transitional and supportive housing when it is deemed appropriate to do so.

On Tuesday (March 9), Coun. Dale Bass called for revisiting of the motion, following blowback from social agencies such as the ASK Wellness Society and the Canadian Mental Health Association.

The motion was among several discussed over nearly nearly four hours during a special council meeting on March 8, requested by Bass and Coun. Bill Sarai to address street issues.

But when the motion passed, Bass said she realized it was too global. Council agreed to revisit the matter and Sarai then amended the motion to direct BC Housing to provide the wraparound services, including on-site nursing, 24-hour security and weekly mental-health and/or addictions counselling services for current and future supportive and transitional housing “whenever the city deems appropriate.”

Coun. Arjun Singh questioned whether council was wading too far into city operations and Coun. Kathy Sinclair said the initiative did not address those who are hardest to house and causing problems on the street.

“This isn’t going to be a silver bullet,” she said, advocating a need for complex-care beds.

Mayor Ken Christian noted the Urban Mayors’ Caucus asked the provincial government to create five complex-care facilities in B.C., including one in the Interior. Christian said Housing Minister David Eby has indicated eight such sites may be created, though not in the immediate future.

Coun. Mike O’Reilly, however, cited the motion as a tool for the city to use — if need be.

“I really hope that this doesn’t have to be used,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal, is that this would not have to be used. But again, we do not have the mechanism or tool to require these types of services when we deem necessary.”

Coun. Denis Walsh called the status quo a “threat” to residents and businesses, with respect to community safety.

The motion passed unanimously, with Coun. Sadie Hunter recusing herself due to a conflict of interest. Hunter heads the A Way Home Kamloops social agency.