A former homeless camp in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)

Nanaimo taking inventory of health, housing, homelessness services

Task force launches resource mapping project

The City of Nanaimo’s task force on homelessness and the opioid crisis has started its work by trying to get a handle on available services.

The health and housing task force has been in place six months and Nanaimo city council received an update Jan. 13 on what’s been done so far and what’s happening next.

The major project in the works right now, said Lisa Bhopalsingh, manager of community planning, is resource mapping and co-ordinated access, being undertaken by the task force, community partners and planning, research and IT partner Turner Strategies.

“Co-ordinated access is basically a means and a system of integrating all the different services that a community member might need who’s struggling with a variety of challenges and making sure they don’t slip between the gaps,” said Bhopalsingh. “Currently B.C. Housing is implementing co-ordinated access for their supportive housing, and Nanaimo is looking at broadening that out to a whole range of other services and supports that people need to keep themselves housed and healthy.”

The resource mapping, available on an app called HelpSeeker, is meant to provide not just a map of services, but real-time data on what resources people are seeking, said Dena Kae Beno with Turner Strategies.

Service Canada contributed $40,000 toward Nanaimo’s systems/asset mapping project and the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition provided $60,000, according to a city staff report.

“It should give us a clear picture of what resources we have, how well they’re being used to address halth and housing issues, where there are overlaps and where there are gaps,” said Bhopalsingh.

Coun. Ben Geselbracht praised the collaboration and the type of work that has been happening.

“I’m really grateful for this data-informed, systemic approach,” he said. “I think this is such a complex issue that we really need to work at it this way.”

Coun. Jim Turley wanted to know how service users were being provided with the information available on the app and Beno said “strategic communications” are part of every stage.

“The process will … provide information to multiple audiences, especially those who benefit the most from the services that will be provided and also to provide individuals who will be using the services and who are vulnerable in the community to have voice in the process as well,” she said.

RELATED: City of Nanaimo creates new task force on homelessness

Following the systems mapping and a social impact audit, there will be community engagement. A funding strategy is expected April or May with the implementation plan to begin immediately. Beno said a “flagship” initiative will be a service model supporting the individuals who access social services most frequently.

“We will focus on your top 50 system users here in Nanaimo and take a look at what their housing, health, income support and community integration needs are and then work through a systems perspective to meet those needs,” Beno said.

A press release from the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition noted that the partnership with Turner Strategies on the resource mapping is the beginning of a series of implementation planning actions around addressing homelessness.

“We have brought together the right decision-makers and frontline service agencies to tackle homelessness leveraging our combined resources and will,” said Signy Madden, executive director of United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island and member of the health and housing task force, in the release. “This project is an important step to making a difference for our community and helping those who need it most.”

READ ALSO: City of Nanaimo decides not to fund addiction treatment beds for now


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