A Gabriolan program for an extreme weather shelter could eventually be eligible for funds from the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN), according to an RDN staff report.
Chief Administrative Officer Carol Mason said Tuesday that the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) has given the RDN $570,000 in the last three years to “support capacity building and end homelessness” in the region.
Speaking to the staff report at the RDN Committee of the Whole (COW) board meeting in Nanaimo, Mason said the RDN does not have a function to deal with homelessness programs, so the first installation – $100,000 – of those funds was divided up on a per capita basis between existing homelessness programs in Nanaimo and Parksville.
However, Mason said, $470,00 remains to be allocated. She said staff recommend that the board distribute 60 per cent of it to Nanaimo and Parksville on a per capita basis “and retain the remainder in a reserve fund for distribution at a later date”.
Noting that the reserve money could either be used to top up existing programs or go towards “other programs out there”, Mason said she knew a program on Gabriola Island is looking at “providing resources to homeless shelters, particularly … extreme weather shelters”. Reached later for comment, she said “… the RDN provided funding through the VIHA Homelessness Capacity Building Initiative to the City of Nanaimo. A proposal from Gabriola Island to assist in funding efforts to address homelessness on the Island would be considered as part of the Nanaimo Homelessness Partnering Strategy Action Plan”.
At Tuesday's meeting, Regional Director Howard Houle asked “what the criteria will be for distributing funds” to electoral areas (EA) such as Area B (Gabriola, Mudge and De Courcy islands).
Mason said currently there are no programs working out of the EAs. She said “if there is a group that’s working primarily out of the electoral area specifically to deliver homelessness programs, the reserve funds would provide an opportunity to fill what needs they might have. So there’s an opportunity for funding there, we’re just not aware of any programs based in the electoral areas”.
As previously reported, the Gabriola Housing Task Force and People for a Healthy Community have pursued the issue of homelessness and the need for cold and extreme weather housing on Gabriola. Mason did not confirm whether those were the groups she meant. However she said that after the COW meeting she told Houle “RDN staff will confirm with the City (of Nanaimo) how funding might be available for regional homelessness programs, and specifically programs running on Gabriola Island. We are obtaining some additional information on the Gabriola Island program, as the staff report recommended that some VIHA funding be retained in a reserve fund for future initiatives that fit within the criteria at the discretion of the board”.
Qualicum Beach Regional Director Dave Willy said the problem with extreme weather shelters is that they only operate during periods of extreme weather. He said most people are unwilling to “abandon what is their home, whether it be a tent or a tarp, or whatever it happens to be in whatever area or district” because they can’t be assured it will be there when they return.
He said focusing on “cold weather”, rather than “extreme weather” shelters “could give enough time to these individuals that we can apply the right assistance and the right services for them to move on with their lives”.
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