Recovery centre sounds alarm about higher funding for drug-permissive housing
Recovery centre sounds alarm about higher funding for drug-permissive housing

The founder of a British Columbia drug recovery program is raising concerns about the funding gap between his site and facilities that permit drug use.

Richard Korkowski is the founder and co-executive director of Joshua House, an addictions program for men based in Chilliwack, B.C. 

He’s also an addict in recovery himself.

Joshua House receives $35.90 per day per resident from the provincial government, which is used to cover accommodation, three dietician-approved meals, personal items, transportation, insurance, staffing, counselling, and the programming needed to help each resident with an addiction get and stay sober. 

“That’s $1,112.90 per month. It costs us around $1,400 a month to house a resident… we have to fundraise approximately $288 for every resident that’s in the facility per month. It’s a huge amount of money. It works out to $376,000 and change every year, something like that. Huge amount of money,” Korkowski, 52, told True North.

According to Korkowski, supportive housing facilities such as single-room occupancy hotels (SROs) receive $100/day per resident. At these facilities, residents are allowed to use drugs, they are not enrolled in any recovery programming, and they receive fewer meals per day and less staff support.

“The supportive housing SROs don’t have any schedules, any programs, nothing going on. But yet they get this $100… We are giving (residents) more than they do, but we get less,” Korkowski told True North.

True North reached out to the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, who did not respond with any information to dispute the $100 per day figure.

Korkowski has residents living at Joshua House that have previously resided in SROs.

“They would tell you exactly what goes on in there. Rats the size of cats, drug dealing, extortion. People being sold into sex slavery. It’s an abominable thing.”

According to BC Housing, supportive housing providers take a “harm reduction” approach, which includes naloxone access, “peer involvement,” and supervised injection rooms.

At Joshua House, residents are not permitted to consume drugs or alcohol.

“We do not allow any active using on our sites whatsoever,” Korkowski said.

“All of our staff are hair sampled. We hair sample every 90 days,” he said. ”And all of our residents who are in our facility are randomly drug screened, and/or if there’s a suspicion of use. If they leave on a weekend pass, they’re drug screened when they come back.”

Korkowski finds the “harm reduction” model dubious. 

“If harm reduction is working, show me one thing that they reduced in harm. Overdoses are up, HIV and Hepatitis C among users is still increasing, it’s not decreasing. More homelessness than ever. So where is the reduction in harm? If there is a reduction in harm, show me where it is, because I haven’t seen it.”

“I’ve never had somebody from supportive housing call me up and say, hey, I want to do a referral for this guy to get into recovery,” he said. 

Korkowski is also critical of the BC NDP’s “safe supply” initiatives.

“It’s not working. I’m an addict myself. And it’s like going up to a child and giving him a box of chocolates and saying ‘only eat one.’ They will never stop at one. They’ll always eat more.” 

Korkowski also pointed out how differences in potency represent an inherent flaw in the so-called safe supply programs.

“Addicts on the street will not take a lesser drug of hydromorphone as opposed to fentanyl. It won’t satisfy their habit. Their habit is stronger than the drugs that they’re giving them. So they’ll need to go to get the fentanyl. They’ll just take the clean supply and sell it,” he said.

“They can say all they want that there’s no selling of the safe supply. But there is. I can bring you up to my facility, you can interview any one of our guys that were on safe supply. And I guarantee you they’ll tell you that they were selling it. It’s not going to work.”

The B.C. government has promised that the per diem rate for facilities like Joshua House will go up from $35.90/day to $60/day per resident starting in the summer, but Korkowski knows that strings will be attached.

“The last time they gave us a raise was $5 a day, which took us to the $35.90. But they added on a whole bunch of other legislation of training and stuff, so they gave it but they took it back away again. I’m curious to see what the strings are for the $60.”

He’ll find out in July. In the meantime, he has fundraising to do.

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