Grant aims to support homelessness projects

Vancouver Island Health Authority earmarks $340,000 to Regional District of Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo staff will meet with stakeholders in Nanaimo and Parksville to figure out how to best spend a $340,000 grant from Vancouver Island Health Authority.

The one-time grant is earmarked for initiatives and strategies to address homelessness and support healthy communities.

“The most important thing is that money is getting into the hands of agencies that have direct impact on homelessness in the community,” said Paul Thorkelsson, general manager of development services at the RDN.

Last year, the regional district received about $100,000, which it divided to cover the two school districts within the RDN, based on population. Nanaimo received a larger percentage, which went to projects of the Working Group on Homelessness, Canadian Mental Health Association and the emergency shelter at First Unitarian Fellowship.

“The largest portion went to support the cold, wet weather emergency shelter,” Thorkelsson said. “In the northern communities, it’s been very similar.”

Electoral areas received a portion, as did Parksville, which used the money for a homelessness count, as well as that city’s emergency shelter.

Thorkelsson said the division of money this year would likely fall along the same lines, although the increase presents an opportunity to target specific projects.

“It comes as a bit of a surprise,” Thorkelsson said. “It also comes as a challenge.”

RDN staff will meet with homelessness groups in communities in the next few months. A report outlining options could be ready for presentation to the regional district board in May.