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Sobering centre proposed for downtown

A sobering centre is different than a homeless shelter, says Paul Mason of Campbell River Family Services

Council needs more information before making a decision on leasing land for a sobering centre for the homeless.

Campbell River Family Services wants to open a sobering assessment and drop-in centre on the same lot recently vacated by the temporary extreme weather shelter.

Paul Mason, a program co-ordinator with Family Services, said the idea for the centre was prompted by the success of the former shelter, but the sobering centre will be a different venue.

“A sobering centre is completely different from a shelter,” Mason said. “It’s not a shelter where they stay overnight. They are assessed, put in to an interim bed until they’re fit to go into the shelter at Evergreen. This facility will be open 24/7, 365 days a year and provide a valuable link between the homeless and community service providers. We will have a nurse on staff to work with clients.”

Mason said the centre will likely have six to eight beds to accommodate clients who are brought in in the middle of their addiction.

The centre will serve as a place for the clients to sober up and receive treatment before being transferred by centre staff to the Salvation Army’s Evergreen Shelter which requires clients to be clean and sober.

While council was supportive of the project, councillors wanted more information on specific details such as building codes, water and sewer hook-up and electricity generation.

“I’m absolutely 100 per cent in favour of a sobering centre,” Coun. Claire Moglove said. “It’s a key component of the crime reduction strategy, but before I feel comfortable as a councillor I need to hear from staff before going ahead. I really want to be careful.”

Council voted to refer the project to city staff for a report on logistics and other possible locations for the sobering centre.

Family Services’ first choice is the lot on Dogwood Street next to the downtown fire hall where the extreme weather shelter had success while in operation November 1-April 30.

Coun. Ryan Mennie praised Mason for his efforts in getting the winter shelter off the ground, but questioned whether the neighbourhood would embrace a more permanent facility.

“I want to congratulate you on your work,” Mennie said via Skype from his new home in Alberta. “The (extreme weather shelter) was an overnight thing. It didn’t have any impact on the neighbourhood. Can you say how a 24/7 operation won’t have any impact on the neighbourhood?”

Mason doesn’t foresee there being problems.

“What we have will be enclosed,” Mason said. “I think a facility like this, available to the homeless – they will use it respectfully as they showed with the extreme weather shelter. They take care of it when there’s a sense of ownership.”

The sobering centre is expected to have a First Nations healing room, a quiet room, a place for counselling and an area for the clients to socialize and have a cup of coffee.

School District 72 has offered an unused portable to serve as the sobering centre, which will be enclosed and landscaped to make it aesthetically pleasing. Mason is looking for the city to approve a three- to five-year lease for the sobering centre.

City staff is expected to report back to council later this month.