Our Place Society will be holding an official ribbon cutting ceremony for its new Therapeutic Recovery Community in View Royal on Friday.
The community is located in the former Victoria Youth Custody Centre which operated as Choices Transitional Housing until December 2017.
It will provide participants with the opportunity to work through their substance abuse issues and give them the chance to transition back into their communities as productive individuals.
Participants will live there and go through a 12 to 24 month treatment plan that combines a medical approach — through examining nutrition, seeing a psychiatrist, doctors, nurses — with a community approach where participants can socialize and look out for each other.
“The goal is to end the cycle of people going from homelessness to prison to homelessness,” said Grant McKenzie, communications director at Our Place Society.
McKenzie said about five years ago, the leadership team at Our Place put together a vision of the Therapeutic Recovery Community. He said they have researched the model and found that people who go through it have about a 70 per cent chance of recovering and coming back into the community. That is compared to a 1 to 2 per cent chance of doing so without the program, McKenzie said.
The team approached BC Housing and said they thought the former custody centre building would be well-suited for the recovery community, McKenzie said. They then went on to raise $2 million from the community donors and are receiving $4.7 million over the course of seven years from the provincial government.
McKenzie said they hope it will be fully funded at the end of seven years.
“We really believe that this type of recovery community will be delivering hope,” McKenzie said.
He said the building has been transformed to seem more like a home or hotel rather than an institution with living walls, electric fireplaces and comfortable furniture.
“The people who are coming in here…a lot of them have had nothing of any value in their lives,” McKenzie said. “Nobody has really treated them with dignity and respect…so we want to try and make it as comfortable as we can for people.”
The first participants are already lined up, with 12 people moving to the community next week, but McKenzie said they are hoping to increase that number as time goes on to eventually 100 residents.
Participants are referred to the community through Island Health, the court system or from Guthrie House, a therapeutic community connected to the Nanaimo Correctional Centre.
McKenzie said the program will require a lot of work and self-reflection but will hopefully lead to participants leaving with an apartment to live in, a job, family connections and the tools to maintain those things.
“It’s getting right down into the depth of what causes homelessness, what causes addiction … it’s pretty emotional,” McKenzie said. “The people who really embrace it do really well but if anybody’s looking at it as a shortcut it won’t work.”
McKenzie said success stories they’ve seen from similar programs around the world are leaving them optimistic about the future of the Therapeutic Recovery Community.
“We are super excited about it,” McKenzie said. “When you hear these stories, it’s just incredible it really is.”