Advocates say supportive housing staff levels woefully inadequate, Eby hints help coming

Advocates say supportive housing staff levels woefully inadequate, Eby hints help coming

Residents of a notorious supportive housing facility in downtown Victoria are at risk due to what one advocacy group says are inadequate staffing levels, though B.C.’s premier said Wednesday that help is on the way.

Doug King of Together Against Poverty Society said the supportive housing facility at 844 Johnson Street has two or three staff members responsible for 140 residents, many with complex needs.

“We’re still seeing buildings like the Johnson Street Community where there are two or three staff members on that are supposed to be responsible for dozens, if not hundreds of individuals that we know have complex needs,” said King.

Premier David Eby acknowledged safety issues within the facility and said relief is coming, however, he did not provide specifics.

“One of the pieces that policy work that we’ve been doing is around making sure that our supportive housing providers are able to have those tools that ensure the buildings are safe, of course,” he said.

The provincial budget has committed $164 million over three years for new complex care beds, including 100 spaces in Victoria.

However, critics argue that more staffing, not just beds, is needed to address the needs of residents.

“We don’t even know what complex care means. We’re being told there are complex care beds. But now we’re being told it’s actually something that is going to be attached to the person, where more support is given to an individual,” he said.

This issue at the Johnson Street facility was brought to light in January, following the death of Jamaal Johnson, a resident.

In a video prior to his death, Johnson pleaded for change, saying: “It is impossible. These places are not designed for me to get out of here. And out of my struggle.”

The video has thrust in the spotlight once more the issue of inadequate staffing and safety within supportive housing facilities in Victoria, as groups like TAPS push the province to provide meaningful help.

With proposed services and new funding on the way, it remains to be seen if those measures will be sufficient to address a growing crisis.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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