B.C., Nanaimo collaborate to address homelessness
NANAIMO - More supports are coming for people who are unhoused and sheltering in encampments.
The Province and the City of Nanaimo have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that formalizes their shared commitment to implement better homelessness response actions.
"We are determined to get people experiencing homelessness the care and supports they need, so they can move from homelessness to a stable home," said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. "Recognizing that more needs to be done to support them, the Province and the City of Nanaimo are formalizing a commitment to work together so that encampment response is better co-ordinated and unsheltered people have appropriate supports."
The MOU clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the Province and the city in the implementation of Homeless Encampment Action Response Teams (HEART) and the Homeless Encampment Action Response Temporary Housing (HEARTH) programs. The MOU's objectives are to prioritize the health and safety of people sheltering outdoors and to create new temporary housing options to transition people indoors. This includes the rapid development of new shelter and housing options, as well as a more co-ordinated approach to outreach and provision of support services. Through the MOU, the city has committed to bring forward available land and expedite land-use decisions for new shelter and supportive housing projects with the Province, through BC Housing.
"No one is happy about the human misery in our streets. Today's memorandum guarantees that many of our vulnerable citizens will have a safe, secure place to live with the necessary supports in place to enable them to leave street life behind them," said Leonard Krog, mayor of Nanaimo. "The continuing challenges of our homeless population can only be solved when we actually house people and recognize their specific needs. The city is incredibly grateful for this serious commitment."
Work is underway to deliver on the commitments in the MOU. BC Housing has finalized a lease at 1300 Island Highway South for new temporary prefabricated transitional housing with supports that will provide housing for up to 50 people. In addition, 50 temporary spaces at Newcastle Place, 250 Terminal Ave., will remain open once the current residents move to Cornerstone, a new 51-unit permanent supportive housing opening at 285 Prideaux St. in the coming weeks. Island Crisis Care Society will continue operating Newcastle Place.
Together, the 100 temporary spaces funded under HEARTH at 1300 Island Highway South and Newcastle Place will provide an interim housing solution for people who have been staying in shelters long-term, and free up shelter space. The Province, through BC Housing, and the city will continue to work together to identify other potential sites in the community and transition people to permanent housing, a main objective of the provincial plan to reduce and prevent homelessness.
"These new homes and supports planned by B.C. and the city show how strong partnerships can deliver for people in Nanaimo," said Sheila Malcolmson, MLA for Nanaimo. "B.C.'s opened more than 1,000 affordable homes here since 2017, with hundreds more underway, yet the need is deep and we must do more."
Nanaimo joins Prince George, Kelowna and Abbotsford, which have partnered with the Province and BC Housing to implement HEART and HEARTH programs. The Province will continue to explore opportunities with local governments to implement these programs in other communities facing significant challenges with homelessness.
The HEART and HEARTH programs are part of the Province's Belonging in BC homelessness plan. The plan will add 3,900 new supportive housing units and 240 complex-care spaces provincewide.
Violet Hayes, executive director, Island Crisis Care Society -
"Island Crisis Care Society believes that everyone deserves a safe and stable place to call home. We are dedicated to our vision of providing shelter and care to those in need. By providing immediate relief through the amazing team already in place at Newcastle Place (250 Terminal Ave.), we aim to create lasting change and positively impact the lives of those facing homelessness in Nanaimo."
- The Province, through BC Housing, is providing a total of more than $9 million for these housing projects from the HEARTH program, and will provide annual operating funding.
- The Province and the city are also partnering to implement HEART, a new multidisciplinary regional program designed to rapidly respond to encampments to better support people sheltering outdoors to move inside.
- The HEART program brings together the Province and local governments, Indigenous partners, health-care agencies and non-profit organizations to quickly assess the needs of people sheltering in encampments and provide rapid access to the supports and services they need to find a home, leveraging local strengths and programs.
To read the MOU, visit: http://news.gov.bc.ca/files/NanaimoHEARTandHEARTH.pdf
For more information about the HEART and HEARTH program, visit: https://www.bchousing.org/housing-assistance/homelessness-services/HEART-HEARTH
To read the Belonging in BC plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BelongingStrategy.pdf