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Champion House, where people can learn to live again

Trail team of health workers plan remedy for homeless, people with addiction and mental illness
Businessman and supporter Robert Landucci speaks to a crowd of local stakeholders at the Trail United Church on Oct. 17 about Champion House, an ambitious new project that will help the homeless and those with addictions and mental illness. Photo: Jim Bailey

A bold new initiative called Champion House was unveiled at a meeting Tuesday (Oct. 17) at the United Church, an ambitious project that will tackle Trail’s unhoused and addictions crisis.

Retired RCMP member and registered clinical therapist, Terry Brennan, kickstarted the initiative, and brought together a select group of health professionals and business persons. Their vision is to restore Greater Trail to a healthier and safer community by offering a proven and readily available addictions and mental health treatment, rehabilitation, and training program in a safe and secure environment.

The Champion House plan was presented to about 50 area stakeholders from the business and health community, municipal city councils, RCMP, not-for-profit groups, and other concerned citizens.

Vancouver businessman Robert Landucci, who was born and raised in Trail, talked about a housing initiative started in the Lower Mainland two decades ago that was unsuccessful, but gave rise to the Street to Home program.

Since then, successful programs have emerged in various cities across the globe, and Champion House is determined to follow their example.

The Champion House team includes Brennan, Landucci, retired nurse Elizabeth Berglund, Community Living’s Shannon Buss, Life Skills programmer Marnie Devlin, and nurse Peggy Ergoff who works with Beaver Valley seniors.

Each spoke about the role they will play in Champion House and its innovative and comprehensive template.

“We need to have Detox, but detox on its own is not enough, we need to have rehabilitation, we need to see our folks right through to the end and even beyond that, and maybe provide some outreach support,” said Buss. “It’s not enough just to send somebody back out onto the street after they’ve been through detoxification if they don’t have the skills to be able to lead a healthy life.”

Potentially, Champion House will be located on a large rural property that includes cluster-living accommodations. The program will offer individualized assessment for those with addiction and mental illness, specialized treatment using ISTDP (Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy) therapy, rehabilitation, and skills training.

“This is a home where people can live just not for a certain amount of treatment or detox time, which is sometimes not that long,” said Berglund. “This can be for two to three years, they can go into short-term housing or longer, until they are ready to go out in the community with skills.

“We might even start a cottage industry, where people can learn to live again.”

Brennan also pointed out that Champion House was for the whole community, acknowledging that many housed people in Greater Trail have mental health and addiction issues.

Once the presentation concluded, attendees asked questions and made poignant observations, noting that the need is substantial.

Montrose Mayor, Mike Walsh, voiced his concerns about the drug problem.

“You go downtown and see guys shooting up, we have to stop the drug trafficking from happening in Trail.”

While, the criminal aspect is beyond the group’s reach, Buss responded by saying that Champion House can indeed help.

“If we could get some of the consumers off the street and get them healthy, there is less need, and traffickers are going to run out of customers,” said Buss. “That is the hope.”

Ron Parisotto, from the Colombo Lodge, noted the substantial resources required and asked, how the initiative would be funded - privately or publicly?

“I focus on the private market and the private people that care,” said Landucci. “There are guys who have sole businesses that are dying to do something but don’t trust where they are putting their money. If they trust it and they see it works, you’re going to get that and when you have that private money, then you can go and lobby the government.”

One attendee, who has struggled with addiction and is now a support worker, recognized that every homeless and addictions case is different, and offering treatment is difficult for those who may not want to receive help.

Well known Trail resident and volunteer Lana Rodlie added her support, recalling that Communities in Bloom started 20 years ago with a similar meeting between advocates and stakeholders.

“I think this is a really good way to start.”

Fruitvale Mayor Steve Morissette attended and left feeling positive about the Champion House plan.

“I thought the presentation was fantastic. They’ve done an incredible amount of work to date, and there’s tons more work to be done, but they started the ball rolling and that’s the most important thing, keep it going and moving forward.”

The Times asked Morissette how vital it is to have a comprehensive treatment facility in the West Kootenay.

“That is hugely important. In our area, people have to leave and it costs tens of thousands of dollars, and we need to treat people at home and where they live, so to get this ball rolling is fantastic, and kudos to these people.”

Brennan was optimistic after the Q&A, noting that the first step started a lively conversation.

“This is a passion for me and at 80 years of age and coming from Trail, and moving back after 65 years and seeing what is going on, it breaks my heart,” said Brennan. “So I am hoping the community will get behind us.”

Champion House asks residents to send letters of support to their respective municipal councils and provincial government.

To view the meeting go to “Champion House Presentation” by Communities in Faith Pastoral Charge on

Read: Trail shelter startup slated for early 2024

Jim Bailey

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