Site preparation will start next month for the new Chilliwack Health Contact Centre on Hocking Avenue.

Site preparation will start next month for the new Chilliwack Health Contact Centre on Hocking Avenue.

Health contact centre ready for next step in Chilliwack

Site work on the long-awaited “one-stop” facility to house Chilliwack's most needy will begin next month.

It’s been quiet at the site of the proposed Chilliwack Health Contact Centre site on Hocking Avenue.

But that’s about to change.

Site preparation for the building renovations is set to start next month.

Partners and stakeholders came together at city hall Monday morning for an update on the latest plan details.

Securing the necessary operational funding to fully realize the vision for a “one-stop” health and social services facility was one of the last obstacles to moving forward, said contact centre manager Lee Anne Hanson of Pacific Community Resources Society.

“That obstacle has now been removed,” Hanson told The Progress, explaining that major project partners like BC Housing and Fraser Health, along with PCRS and City of Chilliwack have recently hammered out a revised plan. “We’re ready to move ahead this summer.”

Groundbreaking on the project is slated for September, along with the signing of a partnership agreement.

The Chilliwack Health contact centre plan has evolved over several years, but the core vision from the start has been to offer integrated health, mental health, addiction and social services to the area’s marginalized and at-risk populations.

In other words, house and support the homeless for up to a year, while they rebuild their lives and acquire key life skills.

From last spring when the special rezoning for the project went through, up until this point, it’s been an ongoing struggle to make the capital funding and service components work together, Hanson explained.

“It’s been an amazing process just to witness it all coming together,” she said.

“There’s been solid community interest from Chilliwack from the beginning because this community cares. This collaborative project clearly demonstrates that.”

City of Chilliwack, BC Housing and Fraser Health reps were all on hand answering a range of questions about the scaled down version of the original operational plan.

Beds for “low barrier” clients will not be available in the early phases, but the program will be staffed 24/7.

The hope is that they’ll ramp up the services, as needed down the line, and possibly add health care services like dental or foot care in the long term, Hanson said.

The former Days Inn motel site will be renovated later this year and the new facility will measure 5,444 square feet.

The centre will contain 22 units of supportive housing on two floors, for people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, with addiction and mental health issues.

“Homelessness is a criteria for getting into the centre,” added Hanson.

A part-time mental health nurse, and family physician and social worker will be available, along with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C services, adult addiction counselling, youth addiction counselling, employment services. A psychiatrist will offer services once a month.

“An employment service consultant for those with multiple barriers is a new component,” said Hanson.

At the Monday meeting, BC Housing officials confirmed commitments to providing ongoing operational funding, as well as an ongoing operational subsidies, which will help ensure the facility can provide staff coverage 24/7.

Updated building and site plans were shared with project stakeholders Monday morning, and the renovations will not extend the footprint of the existing building, and there will be no addition.

Denis Turco Architect Inc. of Vancouver designed the building alteration and renovations, and Mierau Contracting of Abbotsford will be the general contractor.

“Congratulations to all of you,” said former city councillor Mel Folkman, who worked one of the project committees. “It really is a missing link to be planning to offer fully integrated services in this way.”

The contact centre is estimated to open in early 2013.