NANAIMO — Support workers, United Way staff and many organizations across the mid-Island area can breathe a sigh of relief knowing their efforts will continue to be supported.
Signy Madden, executive director of the United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island, confirmed to NanaimoNewsNOW they secured another decade of federal funding to tackle the growing homelessness crisis in Nanaimo.
They’ll receive $990,000 a year, continuing a contract already in place, for services and programs helping both those experiencing homelessness and people on the brink.
“It might just be paying their utility bill in the winter for a couple of months while they go through a rough patch or change jobs,” Madden said. “We’re trying to move upstream, not just help the chronically homeless but folks who may slip into homelessness.”
She said currently funded programs, such as rent subsidies, support for young mothers and collaborative efforts with other non-profits, saves taxpayers money in the long run, eases the burden on services and spares people from trauma.
The money won’t be used to create the affordable and supportive housing which is so desperately needed across the area.
“It means we know where we stand and we can be talking to BC Housing and working with the City to figure out the affordable housing strategy, which will like with this federal money.”
Nanaimo’s affordable housing strategy, in the works for several years, is expected to be before city council in the fall.
Though the funding commitment removed a weight from their shoulders, Madden said there’s still many obstacles to be overcome.
She pointed to the fall’s municipal election as a key chance to make serious strides against the homelessness crisis.
“We need folks to be elected to work with us and find a way to attract and keep the funding from BC Housing for affordable housing,” she said. “That means we’re going to need scattered sites throughout the City and we’re going to need a good deal of education with our neighbours in our community.”
The current administration rejected roughly $7 million of provincial funding for supportive housing in Chase River after the community shared their numerous concerns about the location of the housing, right beside an elementary school.
Similar concerns are being raised in the Oceanside region against a similar supportive housing development.
Madden pointed to the Unitarian shelter on Townsite Rd., which is supported by the United Way, as a low-impact solution the community should familiarize themselves with.
“It’s across from an elementary school and a pre-school and that’s accepted in the community and it doesn’t cause problems. That fear factor is so strong in Oceanside right now and I’m sorry to see that divisiveness in that community. There’s false information and facts out there about what the project is and who it’s going to help.”