The Nanaimo community has received funding from the federal government for local initiatives that provide support to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rental supplements, the opening of warming centres, and mobile outreach to Indigenous homeless youth are just a few of the programs that have been funded over the past year.

Since April 2020, United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island and the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy have provided $1,254,632 in support in Nanaimo.  

To ensure the funding reached those most in need quickly, United Way worked with a network of local service providers and the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition Community Advisory Board to distribute the funds. An initial $868,909 was allocated to 17 organizations delivering 25 programs. The remaining funds will be allocated to other programs working to end homelessness in the region.

The funding was provided through two streams:

Indigenous Homelessness – which provides funding to organizations that offer supports to meet the unique needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness in urban centres.

Designated Communities – which provided funding to organizations who help support people experiencing homelessness, while also working to reduce homelessness.

Some of these programs that have already been funded include:

Short-term rental supplements to keep people housed who have lost their job or experienced financial disruption because of COVID-19.

Shelter upgrades to help shelter spaces comply with COVID-19 health and safety regulations.

Two warming centres to give those living rough somewhere warm and dry to go in the day.

Re-opening existing services in keeping with COVID-19 health and safety regulations

Creating new transitional housing.

Providing urgent outreach services for substance use and addiction challenges.

Providing mobile outreach for Indigenous homeless youth.

Connecting Indigenous clients to health services, mental health support, and substance use treatment.

Offering basic need supports such as food hampers, personal hygiene supplies, winter gear, and PPE, etc. 

Providing supports and training for front-line staff in the service sector to improve services to those experiencing homelessness.

A research study to collect data on the impacts of COVID-19 on homelessness, to learn from the community’s response and recommend improvements for ongoing service delivery.

The funds were issued to United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island (UWCNVI), as the Community Entity for the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy. The projects were reviewed and assessed with the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition’s Community Advisory Board.

Each year, Nanaimo receives approximately $616,624 to support local efforts to end homelessness through the Designated Communities stream and approximately $256,382 through the Indigenous Homelessness stream. The COVID-19 funding received since April 2020 was in addition to the annual funding.

Funded by the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home:
Canada’s Homelessness Strategy

The Government of B.C. has proposed changes to legislation that will allow better and faster access to supports for people experiencing, or at risk of poverty and homelessness. These changes would impact the employment legislation as part of their commitment through TogetherBC: British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.

The proposed changes introduced include:

  • improving the financial security of low-income seniors by ending the need for people on income and disability assistance to pursue early Canada Pension Plan retirement benefits if they are younger than 65;
  • protecting vulnerable youth by eliminating the two-year independence rule as a barrier to receiving income assistance;
  • modernizing the ministry’s definition of spouse to better support people entering and leaving relationships by: increasing the amount of time two people can live together in a common-law relationship before reducing their assistance to the lower couple’s rate; and providing the singles assistance rate to two married people who have separated but not yet divorced, and are living in the same residence independently. 
  • eliminating the practice of cutting people off from assistance who are homeless or at risk of homelessness if they are unable to provide documentation for eligibility and replacing the practice with a modest monetary penalty;
  • ensuring that the repayment of amounts owing to the ministry is consistent by creating more fair and flexible monthly maximum deductions for people receiving assistance;
  • helping people receive eligible assistance sooner by aligning the Employment and Assistance Appeal Tribunal (EAAT) with other tribunals in B.C. to allow for new evidence to be presented in an existing appeal process, rather than requiring people to reapply.

The government says the changes have been advocated by people with lived experience and the organizations that support them. 

Most of the changes will come into effect Jan. 1, 2020, with the rest to come into effect once the necessary regulatory changes are made.

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