Jasmine McMechan believes in the importance of the mundane.
A clean bed, a quiet room, a hot shower and food to cook — the things taken for granted by many are what McMechan tries to offer to a few.
“What we want these places to be are homes,” said McMechan, a life skills worker with the Kootenay Boundary Supported Recovery Program.
The eight-bed program, funded by Interior Health in partnership with ANKORS and Nelson CARES, has operated mostly under the radar for the last two years.
But McMechan, who hosted an invitation-only open house Thursday at one of three undisclosed locations in Nelson, said it’s been invaluable in helping people restart their lives.
“The feedback we’ve gotten is just having a place to be, to put stuff, to cook, to do all those things, is just a game changer,” she said.
“Because how do you start looking at the bigger picture and figuring out what all the bits and pieces need to get done to move on to that bigger picture are if you don’t have a place to be and a shower and food and a roof and a bed and all that kind of stuff?”
The program, which was just renewed for another two years, features one location for people 19 and older who identify as women, another for men and a third that isn’t gender specific. Participants pay $404 per month for rent and are provided $35 per week in grocery store cards for stays of up to six months.
Ideally, residents move into permanent housing at the end of their stay. Nelson’s zero per cent vacancy rate makes that tricky, and McMechan said the hunt for housing begins as soon as participants enter the program.
But since it started in February 2017, McMechan said 11 residents have left the program for stable rental housing.
“That’s been a really cool thing to see,” she said. “It shows there isn’t housing available immediately, but if people start working on it and we start working with people on it at least a couple months ahead of when they are going to be leaving the program, housing does exist and people are in a good place when they are leaving in that scenario.”
McMechan, Ryall Giuliano and Jennifer Worman work as part-time life skills workers, who McMechan said help participants with a variety of tasks including paperwork, job hunting and even shopping for groceries.
One-on-one counselling is provided by an Interior Health clinician, and participants are required to attend one hour of group programming five days a week.
McMechan said the program is aimed at people who want to get their life back on track.
“We’re not appropriate for people who are really heavily into their addiction. We don’t have the same level of support as a residential treatment program,” said McMechan.
“We’re trying to catch people when they have some skills but feel like they could use some extra support and help them to sort out where they want to go.”