Finding a home for those with brain injuries

The Campbell River Head Injury Society is working to secure two side-by-side apartment buildings in Campbellton

The Campbell River Head Injury Society is working to secure two side-by-side apartment buildings in Campbellton in order to provide its clients with a long-term home.

The society is working with BC Housing to purchase the two small apartments on the corner of 16th Avenue and Petersen Road, across the street from the bowling alley.

Shelley Howard, the executive director of the Head Injury Society, said each apartment has 11 suites for a total of 20 one-bedroom living quarters and two bachelors.

“The apartments are very important to the on-going success for individuals with brain injury and limited financial resources,” Howard said. “Many individuals with brain injuries struggle with one or more struggles such as: the risk of being homeless, are homeless, drugs, alcohol, health issues and mental health issues. We will be able to offer a home to these individuals and in turn, help take some of the strain off of the stretched services in our community.”

Howard said there will be a support worker in the building to ensure the clients are receiving the care they need.

She said the hope is to help those with brain injuries transition into the community and settle in with residents already established in the area.

Coun. Larry Samson said that during Monday’s all-candidates forum hosted by the Campbellton Neighbourhood Association he had the opportunity to talk to the Campbellton community about the project and it’s been well-received and supported.

The initiative will complement the society’s already-existing facility, Hillcrest House, on the corner of Dogwood Street and 9th Avenue which can house up to four clients but is meant as temporary housing.

“By having a place for individuals to go after the transitional housing we provide at our current location, or for those who require less support, these apartments will be ideal for the residents’ continued Lifeskills and financial support,” Howard said.

City council was impressed with the project and Tuesday night agreed to a commitment to provide the society with $34,000 – approximately $24,000 of that will be a permissive tax exemption to offset next year’s property taxes and $10,000 will go towards a contingency fund required by BC Housing. City staff will report back to council on potential funding sources.

Howard said the housing will be affordable for its clients, who for many, it’s a struggle financially.

“We want to be able to make it affordable,” Howard said during a presentation to council last year.

“A lot of our clients get $625 a month and that’s what they have to live on and that’s for rent, food, everything. And it’s tough, it’s really tough.”

Clients who live at Hillcrest House pay an income-based rent and have access to a 24-hour care worker. But the demand is high and Howard said having the two new apartments will mean the society can accommodate those looking for housing. The society had a 14-person wait list as of this summer for the suites at Hillcrest House and Howard said between Courtenay and Campbell River combined, the society would be able to fill up a new apartment building in no time.

The society currently sees about 156 patients on an ongoing basis, providing them with medical, physical and emotional support.

Howard told council last year that being able to offer long-term housing to people with brain injuries will relieve some of the financial burden on the medical system.

“We have received numerous calls from the hospital about patients who are brain injured and living in the hospital because there are no other safe affordable options to release them to,” Howard said in March of 2013. “In some cases the costs are upwards of $1,000 or more per day plus they are taking up valuable surgery or medical bed space. If we can offer them safe and affordable housing, that lessens the impact on the community and the health care system.”

Howard told council that 456 people suffer a brain injury every day in Canada, or one person every three minutes. Brain injury is also one of the number one killers and disablers of young Canadians.