This is the fourth instalment in a four-part series on recovery in Greater Victoria. Find the entire series online at vicnews.com/tag/house-of-hope.
There’s a common thread running through the 11 residents living in Foundation House — one of three recovery homes run by Umbrella Society — and it’s not the fact that each is dealing with substance abuse issues. Through extensive interviews with a number of the residents, it’s clear there were no other options besides getting clean for them.
Randall Jones tried getting clean a number of times before securing a spot in the house. He says that if it weren’t for second-stage housing or recovery homes he would be homeless.
He’s been clean for about seven months after battling his addiction with heroin, crystal meth and GHB from the streets. Jones recalls going into withdrawal while staying at a shelter and says it’s exactly like what is pictured in the movies.
“The addicts in the corner, shivering and stuff. It’s exactly like that and it’s a really dark place,” he says.
Before coming to Foundation House, Jones had been homeless on and off, either living in condemned houses and trailers or couch surfing, eventually ending up in tent city and then staying in shelters throughout the winter. He blames his lack of stable housing for pushing him further and further into his addiction.
BC Housing declined Black Press Media’s requests for an interview but issued a statement from MLA Selina Robinson, who pointed a finger at the previous government for the current housing crisis.
“For years the old B.C. Liberal government chose to ignore the housing crisis and cut supports, hurting those who needed help most,” reads the statement.
Adrian Maxwell, another resident of Foundation House, agrees with Jones.
“[If it wasn’t for the house] I would be on the streets or I would be dead, or in jail,” says Maxwell, who’s been in recovery for about two years after battling with cocaine and crack cocaine. Maxwell first came in contact with Umbrella Society after purposely overdosing as a way of suicide. He says he’s not a daily user but would go on benders, sometimes lasting up to three days, that would destroy everything he had worked for.
BC Housing says it recognizes the “urgent need to provide housing and supportive services to people who are experiencing homelessness,” which is why their 2018 budget included a $7 billion investment to help build 114,000 new homes in the province by 2028. Of those new homes, 4,700 units will be supportive housing, although BC Housing does not say how much of the $7 billion will be spent on supportive housing.
“Until people have a home, it is extremely difficult for them to work on any non-survival needs, and so BC Housing does not deny homes to people struggling with substance issues, but instead supports them in their own efforts to improve their health and well-being,” reads the statement.
Judy Darcy, minister of addictions and mental health, says that while a system to support people with substance abuse issues does not exist, the steps the government has taken to stop the crisis are promising.
Fatal overdoses in B.C. dropped by 30 per cent during the first half of the year compared to the same time period in 2018, according to the BC Coroners Service.
“It is far too early to say this is a trend but what it does say to us is the efforts we’ve been taking are working,” Darcy says, crediting the decrease to widespread naloxone training and distribution, the implementation of overdose prevention sites and easier access to opioid agonist therapy.
Darcy and her team have created a 10-year strategic plan called The Pathway to Hope aimed at leading a response to the overdose crisis and creating a better system that is able to handle and care for those who need it most. One of the points in the plan focuses on supporting recovery homes in communities, although no details could be provided as an announcement was still being finalized.