City of Nanaimo pays rent to help house homeless

NANAIMO – The city will contribute $45,000 toward a rent supplement program.

People struggling with chronic homelessness will be given a chance to rent under a formal Housing First strategy.

The City of Nanaimo has foot the bills for the past three years to test a rent supplement program, administered by the Nanaimo Region John Howard Society. Now it’s contributing $45,000 to a more formal Housing First strategy.

It’s part of a city strategy to house the homeless and has seen success, according to John Horn, the city’s social planner, who said most tenants have been able to stay in apartments, and in some cases have withdrawn from the program to manage the unit on their own

The idea, just like the city’s supportive housing complexes, is to provide stable housing for those who have previously struggled with homelessness so they can address other issues like mental health and addiction.

They are provided with outreach support and live in market housing, like townhouses and apartments.

Tenants chip in $375 from their income assistance cheques and the city tops up the rent, tallying about $200 monthly for each unit. Six apartments have been supported to date.

Nanaimo city council has agreed to support another six units over two years to the tune of $45,000. It will also seek dollars from B.C. Housing.

John McCormick, executive director of the John Howard Society, said the pilot was a modified Housing First program and has helped people to stay healthy. With a formal Housing First strategy, they will be applying that experience to people who might be considered more difficult to house.

“[Funding] allows us as the agency that’s moving this program forward to house a targeted 10 people by March 31, 2016,” he said.

The agency has already begun to collect referrals.

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