Submitted by Fiona Dalton, President & CEO

Providence Health Care (PHC) is excited to share information about a unique partnership we have entered into with the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

The PHC Board has agreed to house a 111-bed men’s shelter on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Comox building. The need arose after it was deemed the current shelter space at 150 Robson St. was no longer a viable option for its clients.

Last year, Catholic Charities approached PHC with an opportunity to renovate and upgrade portions of the Comox building to accommodate new shelter beds – an opportunity that aligns with PHC’s mission of caring for and supporting the most vulnerable members of society.

The agreement is temporary, as all of the current St. Paul’s buildings will need to be vacated when the new St. Paul’s Hospital and health campus opens. The shelter beds will not be moving to the new St. Paul’s Hospital (and will be relocated elsewhere).

Additionally, the Comox building renovations include upgrades to other infrastructure – structural protective canopies over egress doorways at grade level and new sprinkler systems – to all the floors of the Comox building (other than the 6th floor which is permanently closed), not just the ones used for the shelter beds.

The permitted occupancy for these other parts of Comox is non-clinical use as determined by the City of Vancouver as part of the permitting process. We are hoping that moving non-clinical functions into Comox will free up clinical space in the hospital.

A newly expanded PHC Space Committee will incorporate any available Comox floor space into its planning and future recommendations. The new St. Paul’s and Health Campus redevelopment team will be relocating to the main floor of the Comox building to ensure this work is tightly connected to the existing hospital and staff.

Developers Amacon, on behalf of Catholic Charities, began work on the structural upgrades in March 2020 to take advantage of the low occupancy in the hospital during COVID. The renovation work is expected to be completed by this Fall.

Once opened, the shelter will operate for guests from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily.

Throughout the Comox building shelter renovations project, PHC Facilities Management staff and SPH site leaders will work closely with Catholic Charities to address any issues arising during the renovation period.

Once the shelter starts operating, we will also ensure we have good processes in place to work closely with Catholic Charities to address any emerging issues, whether they impact our hospital operations or whether they impact the neighbourhood/community. Catholic Charities is undertaking an engagement process with key stakeholders of the West End.

The entrance to the shelter will be from the South side courtyard of the Comox Building, down a ramp into the basement, and then onto the elevator and up to the 2nd floor. The elevator and non-shelter areas will be pass-card protected for all PHC staff. All shelter will be buzzed in to the entrance on the South side one-by-one to maintain security and an orderly intake each day.

We will share more information and provide updates, as this project nears completion. In the meantime, please see some Q/A copied below in the memo.

For questions and concerns regarding any construction activities, please contact Anthony Munster, Executive Director, Projects Planning and Facilities Management,

For questions and concerns regarding clinical/operational issues, please contact Harvey Bosma, Leader, Professional Practice,

If you have questions, concerns or feedback to send to the shelter operator, Catholic Charities, please contact Christopher De Bono, Vice President, Mission, People and Ethics,

Q’s and A’s

1.   Why did Providence agree to allow the shelter to be in the Comox building?

  1. Providence was approached by the Archdiocese of Vancouver and its Catholic Charities to consider allowing a new men’s shelter in the Comox building. The old shelter in downtown Vancouver was deemed no longer viable in meeting the needs of the homeless population. Catholic Charities had the dollars to pay for the renovations. PHC reviewed the opportunity, including its alignment with our mission of serving the most vulnerable members of society, the potential benefits of some of the upgrades to the building, and how the opportunity may help address our continuing space needs. The PHC Board approved the request.

2.   Who’s operating the shelter?

  1. Catholic Charities will operate the shelter. They will manage the intake and discharge of their clients and address any issues their clients have.

3.   This uses up two floors of the Comox building. If this opportunity is about helping PHC with its space needs, why didn’t you first offer or consider those floors for PHC operational, research or staff space needs first?

  1. PHC did not have any capital dollars to undertake any renovations for the Comox building. Catholic Charities brought forward this opportunity along with the money to pay for it. Catholic Charities is also paying for certain upgrades, such as new sprinkler systems, to all other floors of the building. We are grateful we are able to assist in helping the vulnerable homeless population, while having an opportunity at re-opening other floors for our needs.

4.   My program/department has extra space needs. How can I request/save some space now or in the future for whatever becomes available for PHC staff in the Comox building?

  1. The PHC Space Committee will have a process to determine how to allocate new Comox space when it becomes available. For now, please bring your needs to your SLT executive, who can provide you feedback with the proper steps to take.

5.   How many clients will be in the shelter and during which hours of the day?

  1. The shelter is being constructed to have 111 beds and will be open from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m., seven days a week. However, COVID-19 has resulted in a re-evaluation of occupancy rates and there will likely be less beds occupied to ensure proper implementation and management of COVID protocols.

6.   How will shelter clients go in and out of the building? Will they be interacting with hospital staff or patients?

  1. Shelter clients will have their own private entrance/exit to the shelter. They will be on the 2nd and 3rd floors of Comox and no other PHC staff or services will be on those floors.

7.   What kind of clients will be in the shelter? Is this a troubled and challenging population? Are there safety or security issues to be addressed?

  1. Catholic Charities state that all guests are male, the majority of which are elderly gentlemen. There are always some logistical or social issues and challenges when addressing the needs of the homeless. Catholic Charities has operated this shelter for 60 years and has great experience working with their clients and managing their needs. Catholic Charities will be accountable for the logistical needs of operating the shelter.

8.   How long do clients stay in the shelter?

  1. Clients stay from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily. Catholic Charities check people into the shelter for stays of between 30 and 90 days, with an average turnover rate of only 1 – 2 beds per day.

9.   Can the shelter beds be used to decant or transition SPH discharged patients out of the hospital?

  1. The shelter intake process is currently separate from the operations of the hospital, as Catholic Charities has specific processes for admission and discharge of its clients.

10.  When is construction beginning and when will it end?

  1. Construction started in the Spring 2020 and is expected to end in the Fall 2020. We will keep staff regularly updated on its progress.

11.  Has the West End community been engaged about this initiative?

  1. Catholic Charities has initiated an engagement process, starting with West End MLA Spencer Chandra-Herbert. Catholic Charities is the lead in addressing and answering any concerns and questions that may arise from the community. PHC will, of course, assist whenever and wherever required.

12. Who do I contact if I have questions about the impact of the shelter on SPH or PHC operations?

  1. As noted in the memo above, the best people to contact are Anthony Munster for construction issues or Harvey Bosma for clinical and operational issues. If you have questions, concerns or feedback to send to the shelter’s operator, Catholic Charities, please contact Christopher De Bono. 

This page last updated Aug 6, 2020 6:16pm PDT