Tackling the homelessness crisis will require more than just affordable housing, it will require funding for health and addiction-curbing measures, say Regional District of Nanaimo directors.
At their Tuesday board meeting, directors gave Tyler Brown, chairperson, the green light to write Sheila Malcolmson, B.C. minister of mental health and addictions, asking that “adequate levels of treatment, recovery, detox and after-care facilities” be built in the region, along with complex care housing for people requiring more than just supportive housing.
Brown, who had previously given notice of motion, said it was “heartbreaking and shameful” that there are people who are homeless in a province like B.C. with some left to suffer with addiction and mental illness on the streets. He said he was thankful for the province’s efforts with affordable housing options, but “an entire continuum of support is required.”
At the meeting, Leanne Salter, RDN Coombs-area director, told her fellow directors it isn’t just a matter of providing supportive housing.
“The reality is when you call it a health issue, you’re talking medical personnel,” Salter said. “So we’re talking doctors, nurses, that’s what’s required to help folks who are suffering from a health issue, which addiction is. Housing is not a health issue. It is the illness that one has that leads to the homelessness and so, if we understand that, then what we’re saying is what we want is medical personnel in here.”
While the government has built supportive housing and told landlords to rent properties, it doesn’t help people with addictions, said Salter. It doesn’t help them unless services are in place, and some of those services been interrupted or impacted due to COVID-19.
“So when we’re talking about this, we really need to understand what we’re asking for … what really is going to make a difference and a house isn’t going to do it and neither is a facility if it doesn’t have medical personnel in it to assist,” Salter said.
Correspondence will also be sent to mayors and councils for municipalities within the RDN asking they make similar requests of Malcolmson.