People experiencing homelessness in Bowen Park last week. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

People experiencing homelessness in Bowen Park last week. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo’s health and housing task force presents action plan to address homelessness

Draft action plan calls for 635 new program and housing spaces at a cost of $65.5 million

Addressing homelessness in Nanaimo will take co-ordination of resources, intervention teams, and $65.5 million in investments in services and housing, according to a task force report.

At a meeting Monday, Nanaimo city council received the draft action plan from its health and housing task force and allotted $380,000 annually toward implementing the plan.

The report notes that $18.5 million is needed in 2021 to support 280 people experiencing chronic homelessness, and $65.5 million over five years to support 635 new program and housing spaces for 4,300 people.

Though a point-in-time count tallied 433 people experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo, the task force report suggests 1,800 experience homelessness at some time during a given year and another 4,200 are “on the edge.”

The health and housing task force will make way next year for a leadership group that will oversee implementation of the action plan.

An immediate priority in the plan is for the city to support the “incubation” of a homelessness-focused social planning organization to help optimize investments in services and housing. The city or the United Way could perform this function for the first few years, with the goal that it would eventually become an arm’s-length organization attached to the municipality.

The plan calls for expansion of co-ordinated service access to help “with consistent triage of priority clients” and connect individuals with existing resources, supportive housing and recommended new rental subsidies.

Consultant Alina Turner of Turner Strategies, who presented the draft action plan to council, acknowledged the $18.5 million and $65.5 million estimates sound like a lot of money, but said it would be primarily cost-shared. She compared spending $40 per person per day with the $363 it costs for a day in the hospital or $144 for a day in jail. The action plan notes that “the potential return on investment can be as high as $30:$1.”

“If we were actually able to secure this funding and meet some of the immediate targets, we’d be well underway to resolving chronic homelessness,” Turner said.

The draft plan listed 80 action items in six priority areas: co-ordination, housing, leadership and engagement, prevention, compatibility with complex needs, and poverty reduction.

READ ALSO: Nanaimo taking inventory of health, housing, homelessness services

Members of council praised, for the most part, the action plan. Coun. Ben Geselbracht said he was heartened to see the level of detail and said he’s “anxious to get going” to try to connect 100 per cent of people experiencing homelessness with access to services.

“It’s really important for the community to know that we do have a plan set up that is well-thought-out, it’s financially costed out, the organization [is] structured out and it’s a matter of supporting that plan moving forward to make it happen,” he said.

Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said everything in the action plan was previously attempted a decade ago with the Safer Nanaimo committee and hopes this time there will be more specialized supports and more health and mental health resources.

“There’s nothing new in [this] report. Nothing,” she said. “And what happened [last time] is there was a lack of commitment from partners, so it started to drop off.”

Council voted to extend the mandate of the health and housing task force and ask for a staff report and recommendations on adoption and implementation of the action plan, but later in the meeting, Coun. Tyler Brown, against staff’s recommendation, motioned to allot $380,000 annually for the action plan implementation, as well as $100,000 previously earmarked for a drop-in centre for people experiencing homelessness.

City chief administrative officer Jake Rudolph had suggested the city make preliminary requests to Island Health and B.C. Housing “because ultimately the lion’s share of the funding will have to come from those agencies, not us or the service providers.”

He said the City of Kelowna, with a similar homelessness action plan, spends $150,000 a year on co-ordination, though it also has a social development manager on staff.

Some members of council preferred to wait until the new year to commit to funding the action plan. Coun. Ian Thorpe suggested Brown’s motion was made in haste and Mayor Leonard Krog said there’s no need to commit money now to send a signal when the action plan hasn’t even been officially received by council.

“We haven’t decided on the model, we haven’t discussed this with the potential partners in all of this,” Krog said. “With great respect, there’s lots of ways to send a signal, but I’m not going to send a signal … with hundreds of thousands of dollars of the people’s money that I don’t have to commit to spending.”

The majority of council, however, was prepared to set aside money. Coun. Erin Hemmens called it “pragmatic” to provide secure funding to the portfolio and Coun. Zeni Maartman argued passionately to support the health and housing action plan with an immediate funding commitment.

“We have people that we are displacing from fires in their tents to parks where people don’t want to go because they don’t feel safe,” she said. “We need to make this investment, we need to do it now and if things don’t work out or if things change, then we’ll change it then. But right now, I want a statement made that we’re doing everything we can for our brothers and sisters that are in the street and I hope that sometime soon we have a conversation of what we can do for them now, too.”

Council voted 5-4 to put $380,000 annually toward implementation of the health and housing action plan, with Thorpe, Krog, Armstrong and Coun. Jim Turley opposed.

READ ALSO: Nanaimo citizens ask about housing and homelessness at budget-focused town hall meeting

READ ALSO: Nanaimo RCMP find ‘heart-breaking’ circumstances during wellness checks

READ ALSO: City of Nanaimo creates new task force on homelessness



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

City HallHomelessness

Just Posted

Tamara Cameron, Uplands Park Elementary School music teacher and librarian, students Ben Leduc, second from left, Avery Kojima and Kinley Robson, as well as other music students from the school, will benefit from $8,000 from MusiCounts, for instruments and recording equipment. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Money for new instruments music to ears of Uplands Park school staff and students

Grant from music education charity MusiCounts means students will have more ways to be creative

A nurse asks screening questions at an immunization appointment in Nanaimo earlier this year. (Shawn Wagar/Island Health photo)
Island Health appreciates nurses answering the call in challenging times

Health authority draws attention to National Nursing Week

Sarah Boileau in her home studio on Monday, May 10. Boileau’s work will be on display at the McMillan Arts Centre in Parksville through May 30. (Submitted photo)
Beef to the ‘senior’ 30-plus taggers. You are too old to be doing these juvenile antics.
Beefs & Bouquets, May 12

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Nanaimo city council has approved funding for an upgraded bridge crossing Millstone River in Bowen Park. (News Bulletin photo)
New bridge in Bowen Park part of City of Nanaimo’s active transportation plans

Replacement of Lenhart Bridge next year expected to cost $237,000

Beef to the ‘senior’ 30-plus taggers. You are too old to be doing these juvenile antics.
Beefs & Bouquets, May 12

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Ken Rutherford, left, and Rick Lord, organizers of the Nanaimo Model Railroad Show, receive honours from the National Model Railroad Association-Pacific Northwest Region for 40 years of dedication to the preservation and presentation of railroad history. (Photo courtesy Phyllis Rutherford)
Model railroaders honoured for dedication to rail, both life-sized and miniature

Longtime organizers of Nanaimo Model Railroad Show presented with heritage awards

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old Nanaimo bike rider already attracting cycle sponsors

Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Business owner Jeff Ross outside his shop Gold Silver Guy in Qualicum Beach on May 10. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Gold Silver Guy owner finds Qualicum shop in shambles after break-in and theft

RCMP investigating after door smashed, showcases shattered and inventory stolen

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu on May 8. (Black Press Media file photo)
Indigenous woman shot by police was holding a replica gun, says Ucluelet First Nation

Woman has been identified as a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)

Most Read