Money has run out for the Rainier Hotel addictions treatment program for women.
The program offers addictions and clinical treatment to 41 homeless women in the Downtown Eastside over a longer term and focuses on former sex-trade workers. As they progress in their treatment, the women move up from the treatment program on the second floor to the third floor for housing and career assistance and receive continued clinical support.
But the $5 million funding from Health Canada will run dry by early December. Vancouver Coastal Health has decided not to continue the program with money it receives from the provincial government and will find space for these women in other treatment programs and services.
“The clients are going to be transitioned into services VCH provides and housing from B.C. Housing,” said VCH spokesperson Anna Marie D’Angelo. “The clients will be transitioned out when funding ends.”
Those enrolled in the program will undergo individual assessments over the next few weeks and be linked up with VCH programs determined to be the best fit.
Mark Townsend, director of the Portland Hotel Society, which manages the Rainier Hotel, said it would be “insane” to end the program, due to the need for women’s treatment centres in the Downtown Eastside. And without the treatment centre, he said the Rainier will lose its heart and soul.
“All those things go and what you basically have is the soul ripped out of it and you have a single room occupancy hotel, which when I last checked is not a treatment program for women. It’s just an SRO,” said Townsend.
Townsend said as of Sunday, Nov. 18, the PHS had still not been informed the addictions program would be shut down. Until he spoke to the Courier, he was under the impression VCH was trying to “cobble together solutions” to continue that program.
‘It’s a distinct lack of carefulness in something that actually means a lot to 40 people,” he said.
Violet-Rose Pharoah, a resident on the third floor of the Rainier, said although she took part in a short term treatment program outside of the Rainier, the hotel’s programs have been critical to her recovery. The programs include the writing and First Nations talking circle programs the Rainier offers.
“That was the cool thing. They’ve stood with me the whole process just to support me as I’ve started to start functioning as a member of society.”
She said the Rainier’s support after completing her addictions treatment program that has given her and others at the Rainier something to hold onto.
“If you don’t have stable housing [or] the support to help you find meaningful employment, it’s very likely you’re going to start looking at the way that your life used to be [and] possibly again picking up drinking or drugs.”
D’Angelo said the women will have better services than they had at the Rainier. Townsend said he didn’t know how that would be possible. Many of the other addictions treatment programs offered by VCH are a month in length or at a unisex facility.
B.C. Housing confirmed it will not be moving anyone out of the Rainier and will continue $730,000 worth of annual housing funding.
The Ministry of Health’s only response to the Courier has been that it is up to VCH to decide where to allocate the funding it is provided.