How was this small town of Kelowna in Canada suppossed to help the homeless access healthcare? It would take two simple decisions; to work collaboratively and to focus on one individual at a time creates a culture shift on the frontlines.

Like so many mid-sized cities in Canada today, Kelowna has a growing number of homeless and street-involved people. With a population of just over 100,000 there are an estimated 500 absolutely homeless and 5,000 more under-housed persons in the city - and
Nov 9, 2010 8:51 AM ET

Listen to the AUDIO STORY


Andrew Hughes is the Director of Primary Care at the Outreach Urban Health Centre, the neighbourhood health clinic. He saw that the lack of organized access to care and services was a major challenge for these vulnerable populations.

We had a specifically complex individual on the street, who was actually an alcoholic woman in a wheelchair, and what was happening is, we’re detoxing her. She’s revolving back because she can’t get into treatment without a window between detox to treatment to transition then into sort of long-term strategies for care. At some point, she always has a gap within the service so that then she relapses and then ends up going back on the street.

So we said, Okay, the client’s ready to change, can we get the system ready for her change plan?

Okay, let’s get all the players in place. I need somebody from detox here, somebody from the transition house, somebody from the long-term care plan, somebody that’s from the outreach that’s connected with them and someone else from the women’s shelter and of course, the client themselves.

I said, we’ve got everybody together. And essentially from that, we said, okay, well, first of all, tonight you’re going to the shelter, and the shelter person’s there saying, Yup, you’ve got a bed.

And you said, Okay, when is the detox bed available?

Tomorrow morning—great!

Detox person’s there saying, Okay, tomorrow morning, you’ll have a detox bed.

How long does that detox take?

Well, the detox take seven days.

Okay, at day seven, where does she go?

Okay, well, she can go into the transition home. Do you have a bed? Yes.

Okay, I’ll hold that bed make sure it’s available come day eight.

Okay, then you go there. Okay. How long does that last for?

Twenty-eight days. Okay. So we’re looking then at 38 days from now.

Where does she go? From there, then she goes into the long-term care.

Okay, cool. Can we create a bed 38 days from now from that, and then that person is there and she said, Yes, I can.

Perfect, let’s line it up. Immediately after that meeting, that person was off the street because that person went with the shelter person immediately. And I was, like, we just got a person off the street in a one hour meeting.

Huh! Let’s do it again.  



For more information on Partners in Community Collaboration or to make a donation contact:

The Urban Outreach Health Unit
455 Leon Ave.,
Kelowna, BC
V1Y 6J4
Phone: 250 - 868 - 2230