$470K from VIHA for homelessness programs
The Regional District of Nanaimo has been confirmed to receive $470,000 from the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) to build capacity to end homelessness.
Paul Thorkelsson, RDN General Manager for Development Services, explained in his report to the board that to date, only the City of Parksville and City of Nanaimo have active homelessness initiatives (which meet VIHA criteria) in place to address homeless issues.
“Staff is not aware of any projects other than those highlighted in this report that could specifically meet the VIHA criteria and would be eligible for funding.”
Carol Mason, Chief Administrative Officer for the RDN, said the option existed to apportion 60 per cent of the funds to the Nanaimo and Parksville programs and retain the rest of the money in reserve, “so if other programs are out there we would have the money to allocate there.”
She added one of the items Parksville is looking at using the monies for is expanding their extreme weather shelter program to be turned to a cold weather shelter, so it would be open more often when the criteria needed for ‘extreme’ shelter didn’t exist and more supplies could be made available.
Carol mentioned there is a program on Gabriola Island which the RDN is looking closely at, but did not elaborate on what program she meant.
Director Mark Lefebvre, City of Parksville, said one of the issues his community is struggling with is many of those who need the help live in rural areas.
Transportation, getting people to shelters, is one of the concerns he would see the funds being used to help with.
“It is a challenge to get the folk to come from where they are in the rural areas.”
Director Dave Willie, Town of Qualicum Beach, said he was encouraged there would be expansion to include cold weather help.
He said in an extreme condition, “most people are not going to abandon their home to try and return to it and hope it is still there in three or four days later. I’m encouraged the cold weather will help us provide [expanded services].”
Based on a population of 4,045 on Gabriola, Mudge and DeCourcy islands, Electoral Area B qualified the RDN for $13,055 of the $470,000 total.
John Horn, Social Planner with the City of Nanaimo, said requests for proposals for the funding won’t go out until the funding transfer is formally approved by the RDN Board at its next meeting (scheduled for Tuesday, June 26).
John said once [if] the RDN Board approves allocating funds to the City of Nanaimo, “anyone can apply to it or submit a proposal, so long as it meets the criteria.”
John said ‘anyone’ includes applications from Gabriola Island. He added the last time funding calls went out, the criteria focused on ensuring programs provided service directly to the homeless and was accessible by any and all who needed to use it.
John said Nanaimo is also looking to expand funding outside of the extreme weather criteria to include cold conditions which still do not qualify as ‘extreme’ in the program criteria.
Proposals sent in will go to the Nanaimo working group on homelessness, which John’s department has a seat on.
The group reviews the proposals and sends recommendations for funding to John’s office, which then, according to John, “basically rubber stamps.”
John’s office at the city will only be working with its portion of the 60 per cent being allocated to Nanaimo and Parksville.
The remaining 40 per cent will stay with the RDN and proposals seeking to utilize those funds will need to direct applications to the RDN administration.