Choices Transitional Shelter resident John Goddard chats with Anna Kebaien in a common area inside one of the buildings at the facility in View Royal. The former youth correctional centre is being touted by Our Place Society as an ideal place for a permanent recovery centre.

Therapeutic recovery community pitched for Choices in View Royal

Our Place envisions residential facility to provide lasting rehabilitation at the West Shore facility

Breaking the cycle of addiction, homelessness and incarceration for vulnerable citizens of the Capital Region is one of the goals of a proposed therapeutic recovery community at the former youth corrections centre in View Royal.

The facility, unlike anything currently available on the south Island, would target people who have multiple barriers to recovery, said Don Evans, executive director for the Our Place Society.

“These are people who are dealing with poverty and homelessness, and mental health and addictions; people who have suffered from trauma and abuse,” he said. “They really need something more than the traditional short-term treatment centres that are available.”

The community would see 40 to 50 people living in the existing residential facilities at 94 Talcott Rd., currently being used by B.C. Housing and operator Our Place for the Choices transitional shelter. Evans described the proposal as a “safe, highly structured program” in which everything would be “focused on their healing and their transitioning through to recovery.”

Residents of the community, some of whom could be placed there under court-ordered conditions or as part of their probation, would stay from 14 to 24 months and be encouraged to engage in the variety of activities available on site. Those could range from personal and spiritual counselling and group meetings to vocational classes, exercise facilities and opportunities to grow food.

“We’re working closely with the courts so that the courts will have an alternative to jail,” Evans said, “so instead of sending people that are homeless to jail, they’ll send them to recovery.” Current estimates are that 60 per cent of the people in jail are homeless, he added.

With an eventual 20 to 30 people annually “graduating” from the program, the idea would be to work with employers to have jobs ready for them upon leaving the facility, and immediate placement in a supervised, second-stage “sober house” with other alumni. After that, final placement into permanent housing would complete the transition.

An advisory group giving guidance to Our Place on the development and content of such a program includes individuals from the corrections, probation, law enforcement, medical and recovery communities on Vancouver Island.

The format is patterned after the San Patrignano youth recovery community in Italy, where more than 1,300 residents are learning valuable life lessons and gaining personal and leadership skills to allow them to move forward positively in their lives.

Evans’ presentation to View Royal council came on the same night council members forwarded B.C. Housing’s application for another year-long temporary use permit for Choices to public hearing next Tuesday (April 4, see accompanying story).

Our Place has targeted 94 Talcott Rd. for the new proposal, given its location away from the triggers of the downtown, its existing setup as a residential facility, its close access to 12-step meetings and medical services, and various on-site amenities.

While no major alterations or renovations would be required, what is needed is a rezoning to allow such a facility to operate on the premises. Our Place Society is already working with B.C. Housing to prepare for that, and has also been teaming up on the extension of the temporary use permit.

After the presentation, Coun. Ron Mattson asked Evans about the desired time frame for the changeover. Should the extension be approved, Evans said, B.C. Housing would move toward permanent placement of current residents of Choices by the end of 2017, with potential availability of the facility by early 2018.

Coun John Rogers, who spent 35 years working in the B.C. Corrections branch, noted there has long been a gap locally for this type of program. He said it could work well as a way to get people with court-ordered conditional sentences into a better place, and applauded the inclusion of experienced people on the advisory committee.

Aware of the need to not put the cart before the horse, Mayor David Screech said, “It’s important to remember that this is a long-term vision for the property and the short term is dealing with the temporary use permit.”

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