Nanaimo negotiates with community groups to open shelter beds for homeless youth

NANAIMO – City council agrees to see partnership for youth shelter beds with Nanaimo 7-10 Club or Tillicum Lelum.

The aim is to open 12 additional shelter beds for homeless youth in two weeks, according to John Horn, City of Nanaimo social planner, who continues to work on who will operate the proposed shelter and where.

Nanaimo city council agreed Monday to support more winter shelter beds for youth by partnering with either Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre, which has a youth shelter on Tenth Street, or the Nanaimo 7-10 Club. It also agreed to spend up to $75,000 this season on beds and referred the broader issue of youth homelessness and a long-term extreme weather shelter for young people to its community vitality committee.

It’s been seven days since advocate Audrey Bouvet went to council to call for a cold weather shelter for youth and Nanaimo city council struck a four-person team of councillors Gord Fuller and Diane Brennan, Bouvet and Horn to look at options.

In a staff report, Horn said there’s approximately 10 to 15 youth on the streets without access to shelter and clear evidence the current youth shelter is not sufficient to address the population of young people who do not have a home. Tillicum Lelum’s youth safe house has eight beds, but typically runs at 100 per cent occupancy.

Four solutions were presented to council to address the youth shelter issue, with the Unitarian church ranked at the top. Its space, however, was found to be too small for the proposed use. There was also a proposed new facility, which would not be possible for this winter. Council approval was sought to partner with either Tillicum Lelum or Nanaimo 7-10 Club.

Horn told council there are negotiations to see what parties can do what, when and how and those aren’t concluded.

“We are putting out what’s the likely options and then we’ll work with providers to see if that’s possible and even probable,” he said.

Coun. Bill Bestwick didn’t want to restrict negotiations to either organization and said he’d rather it be open to allow up to $75,000 for staff to provide as many beds as possible in however many locations determined appropriate, although Horn pointed out staff would have to be doubled if there were two places and the preference is to do it all in one.

Fuller, chairman of the Nanaimo 7-10 Club, said the space isn’t an ideal location and would be temporary at best until things could get organized perhaps with Tillicum Lelum, but it could be done quickest and easiest. Fuller also said the club doesn’t benefit and there is no conflict of interest.

Brennan was at a meeting last Wednesday on the shelter issue and said most of the players were there, recognized the urgency, and were optimistic it could be done in fairly quick order.

“I am confident we can get this done and [John Horn] will bring back to us the best choice that can be made in this. They are limited but there are solutions,” she said.

The city will look to contract with a third-party non-profit, and the $75,000 will go toward a contract fee, according to Horn, who said the third-party will be the one to figure out things like where they’ll get staff and how quickly they can fire up a shelter.

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