Rosethorn House opens this week in Kamloops

The building has 42 units, including six that are accessible to those with disabilities. The vast majority of tenants are moving from The Branch in North Kamloops, a temporary bridge housing and hybrid shelter space that will close in March

Daniel Hall is ready and anxious to move.

On Wednesday, Jan. 29, the 40-year-old Kamloops man who has experienced homelessness will move from The Branch in North Kamloops into room 203 at Rosethorn House downtown.

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Hall’s small, brand new apartment unit is nestled in a four-storey modular housing building, located at 259 West Victoria St., BC Housing’s latest collaborative housing project in the city.

Daniel Hall Rosethorn House
Daniel Hall, who will move into Rosethorn House this week, shares his story about being homeless. - Michael Potestio/KTW

It will be managed by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

At Rosethorn House, Hall will have four walls, a bed, a kitchen and a bathroom all to himself, along with access to on-site support services, including a street nurse, employment skills training, three meals a day and social areas.

Hall calls the move a “step up” as it is permanent.

“Basically went from sleeping on a mat to a bunk bed and now we get our own personal units,” Hall said, with tears welling in his eyes while describing his surprise at how it all came together.

“It’s a big step up. We’re looking all forward to it and enjoying our new homes.”

Rosethorn House
Rosethorn House includes an industrial kitchen. - Michael Potestio/KTW

The Branch on Royal Avenue has acted as temporary bridge housing and hybrid shelter space, in light of delays to construction of Rosethorn House.

The project — one of two modular housing developments by BC Housing in partnership with non-profit agencies — faced geotechnical challenges and issues also arose due to significant road work along West Victoria Street, reporters were told on Monday during a tour of the new facility.

Thirty-six people currently living at The Branch, including Hall, will move into Rosethorn House beginning on Wednesday. The Branch will close in March and all of its residents will transition to the new permanent housing, City of Kamloops social development supervisor Natalie Serl told KTW.

Rosethorn, a name chosen collectively by residents to represent flaws in beauty (think “every rose has a thorn”), cost $10.8 million, according to BC Housing board member Katherine McParland. A cost breakdown could not be provided. An annual operating subsidy of $980,000 is also in the budget.

Rosethorn House
An apartment unit in Rosethorn House. - Michael Potestio/KTW

The building has 42 units, including six that are accessible to those with disabilities. With the Branch residents taking up a significant number of the apartments units, six other residents are expected to be housed from the streets, Serl said.

“It is anticipated that by mid-February, all of the rooms will be occupied,” she said.

A support room will house two staff members around the clock, with services like managing budgets, employment skills training and health and wellness available. Residents will have access to a street nurse five days per week via a medical room. A harm-reduction room will provide a safe place to use drugs and help work residents toward addiction recovery. A multi-purpose room can house family members and will also have the ability to be transformed into emergency shelter space during cold weather events.

Canadian Mental Health Association acting operations leader Alfred Achoba said the space will be able to house between 10 and 20 people in an emergency. Kamloops recently faced a cold snap, during which social agencies were left scrambling to open warming stations.

Rosethorn House
Kmaloops Mayor Ken Christian (seventh from the left) is flanked by Rosethorn House residents and representatives from BC Housing and the Canadian Mental health Association. - Michael Potestio/KTW

Rosethorn is the second modular housing project in Kamloops as part of a provincial plan to address homelessness. To date, McParland said 150 units of supportive housing have been built in Kamloops. Spero House opened in North Kamloops last year and is being operated by the ASK Wellness Society. Serl said all units in that project are occupied.

Provincial staff from the Canadian Mental Health Association were at Rosethorn House on Monday to discuss the project. In addressing the sudden departure of former executive director Christa Mullaly from the local agency, the association’s CEO for B.C. Jonny Morris, said no plans for hiring are apparently in sight.

The agency also remains mum on why Mullaly is no longer at the helm of its Kamloops chapter. Her departure, however, won’t impact the housing project, reporters were told.

“Currently, it’s business as usual. We have an excellent management team in place locally,” Morris said.

Serl said BC Housing has another 385 units planned for Kamloops, in partnership with the ASK Wellness Society, the John Howard Society and Oncore Seniors Society.

Rosethorn House
Rosethorn House also has a lounge area for residents. - Michael Potestio/KTW
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