The pandemic exacerbated some of the problems related to homelessness in Nanaimo and the federal and provincial governments recognize that.
The B.C. government, in a press release Aug. 12, announced that the two senior levels of government have granted $2.5 million to the City of Nanaimo for homelessness response.
A city press release noted that the majority of the money will go to housing and hygiene supports for vulnerable populations, but some will go to housing for “small-scale homelessness response” and some will pay for temporary shelter.
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said the money can be used to recoup costs of existing programs.
“We have a reasonable amount of discretion as to exactly how we’re going to use it … it can and will be used within our current program structure,” Krog said. “The program, overall, is a recognition that cities are having to do this work and have been doing this work up until now and the feds and the province are stepping up and providing some funding.”
Krog said as the grant is part of a pandemic recovery package, the city won’t budget with the expectation that the money is a reliable funding stream.
The mayor acknowledged Snuneymuxw First Nation’s role in supporting the application and said the city hopes to work with SFN on several projects funded by the grant.
The B.C. government announced that the grant stream is providing more than $76 million across 48 communities.
Brian Frenkel, president of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, said in the province’s release that local governments have been calling for additional funding to improve services for individuals facing mental-health challenges and homelessness.
Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo MLA, and Doug Routley, Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA, said in a separate press release that the City of Nanaimo’s grant would help provide vulnerable people in the community with greater access to local services which will help tackle homelessness.
“Homelessness has hit Nanaimo hard, and the pandemic made everything worse,” said Malcolmson. “Homelessness hurts everyone – the people living it, first responders, and the businesses affected.”