RDN doles out homelessness grant money

NANAIMO – Initiatives addressing homelessness in the Regional District of Nanaimo could get a cash infusion this year

Initiatives addressing homelessness in the Regional District of Nanaimo could get a cash infusion this year through a grant from the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

For the past three years, the health authority has given one-time grants to the Regional District of Nanaimo for projects to end homelessness.

“Adequate and safe housing for those who are homeless or at-risk for homelessness is a key first step in providing individuals with health, mental health and or addictions services,” said Don Hubbard, VIHA board chairman, in a press release.

In 2011, the RDN received $130,000, which was not distributed at the time. In 2012 it received $340,000.

Directors recommend that 60 per cent of the $470,000 be split between Nanaimo and Parksville.

Nanaimo will receive about $196,000 and Parksville will receive $86,000 for 2012-13 projects. The remaining money will go into a reserve fund for future projects.

Paul Thorkelsson, general manager of development services, said the recommendation to put money into a reserve is because there is no assurance that funding will be ongoing.

In 2010, the RDN received $100,000, which was divided between Nanaimo and Parksville based on population.

Parksville used the money for a homelessness count and the city’s emergency shelter.  Nanaimo received a larger allotment, which was given to the Working Group on Homelessness, Canadian Mental Health Association and the cold weather shelter operated by the First Unitarian Fellowship.

John Horn, City of Nanaimo social planner, said the money is used to address the concrete needs of the homeless.

“Last time around the impact was pretty significant because it allowed the cold weather shelter to open up seven nights a week,” he said.

The Working Group hosted a number of dinners that enabled people to eat and participate in a social event, which created a sense of community.

If the RDN board approves the committee of the whole recommendation, Horn said Nanaimo would put out a request for proposals from organizations to distribute the money.