Different types of housing models, with different levels of supports, allow social service agencies to meet people where they’re at on their path to stability and independent living.


Shelters are temporary spaces for people experiencing homelessness. Shelters can be single rooms, shared bedrooms or dorm-type bedrooms. Shelters usually provide food and a variety of other services. Some shelter spaces are only available seasonally or when weather conditions are hazardous.

The Unitarian Shelter on Townsite Road is an example of a year-round shelter operating in Nanaimo. The total number of shelter spaces in Nanaimo is approximately 150, which is far below the current need. There are over 433 people currently experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo and lack of shelter beds has led to a high number of people being forced to sleep on the streets.

Supportive Housing

Supportive housing gives people the help they need to move out of shelters and off the streets. Supportive housing stabilizes lives by providing on-site supports like access to mental and physical health care, life-skills training, education and more. The ultimate goal is to help people reset their lives so they can find stability and eventually live independently.

The housing at 6025 Uplands Drive in Nanaimo is a supportive housing unit run by Pacifica Housing, with 33 studio apartments.

Temporary Supportive Housing

This is short-term supportive housing in response to an emergency or crisis situation where a large number of people must be housed. An example of temporary supportive housing in Nanaimo is Newcastle Place at 250 Terminal Ave., operated by Island Crisis Care Society. This project provided 80 homes in response to a homeless encampment.

Subsidized Housing / Social Housing

These are housing developments that the government or a non-profit subsidizes to offer “affordable” rental rates (less than 30% of before-tax household income). The government or a non-profit housing partner owns and/or operates social housing. Albion Place at 510 Pine Street is a subsidized housing facility.

Did you know? Campaign

There are many myths and unknowns about Nanaimo’s homelessness crisis. These misconceptions impact how we respond to those experiencing homelessness, as individuals and as a community. Nanaimo Homeless Coalition’s Did you know? campaign strives to educate the public about the many factors that contribute to homelessness. Each month, we’ll explore a topic around homelessness to help inform the community.

“Safe, affordable housing is very much out of reach for many people.”

The Street Reach program at Canadian Mental Health Association Mid-Island Branch (CMHA) focuses on two areas: outreach and providing rent subsidies.

Connecting one-on-one

Outreach workers connect one-on-one with people living rough; in camps, in parks and on the street. The outreach worker learns what each person’s needs are and determines what community services can best support them.

Then the outreach worker will help their clients obtain these supports. For example, they may start the application process for supportive housing, make appointments with health professionals or facilitate BC Housing registry.

Since COVID, the focus has been reaching out to people experiencing isolation. “There was a lot of fear and confusion about COVID-19 in the community of people facing homelessness,” says Kiersten Stewart, Programs Director at CMHA. “These folks may not have access to reliable news, so we need to make sure they have the correct information to keep themselves and their community safe.”

Housing support

The homelessness outreach program also provides temporary subsidies for people who want to get into market housing. Income assistance offers $375 a month for housing. CMHA provides a number of subsidy top-ups, funded by BC Housing, giving people the ability to rent an apartment.

 “Subsidies are important,” says Stewart. “Safe, affordable housing is very much out of reach for many people in our community.”

With one of their basic needs of safe housing taken care of, these subsidies give people time and space to start focusing on their well-being. This may include seeking help from health professionals, finding employment or exploring educational opportunities.

CMHA is currently supporting 73 individuals with the subsidies.  

For more information about CMHA Mid-Island, visit: cmhamidisland.ca

Nanaimo, BC- New housing will soon be available for those facing and experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo through a partnership project announced yesterday by BC Housing and the City of Nanaimo.

The Nanaimo Homeless Coalition (NHC) is pleased with yesterday’s partnership announcement to create more permanent housing options in Nanaimo and reduce the amount of people experiencing homelessness in the region. Over 300 new affordable homes are planned to be built over the next few years. This includes new permanent, purpose-built supportive homes for people experiencing homelessness and new affordable rental homes for individuals, seniors and families.

See Government of BC’s press release here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2020MAH0079-001271

“Yesterday’s welcome news shows how tackling homelessness takes multiple partners from government and the non-profit sector working together. While projects announced yesterday move to completion, the City of Nanaimo Health and Housing Task Force and the Homeless Coalition will continue to work hard to find the next round of solutions to house the over 425 people experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo,” says Jason Harrison, co-chair, Nanaimo Homeless Coalition member.

The planned permanent supportive housing is intended to replace the temporary housing at Labieux Road and Terminal Avenue, as well as add new supportive housing at additional locations within the city. Island Crisis Care Society will be operating two of the supportive housing sites and Nanaimo Region of the John Howard Society will operate one.

“These new homes are about making sure people in Nanaimo – from those who are without homes to seniors to young families – have homes they can afford,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “Our government is working with partners to take action and move people into new homes where they are safe, welcome and supported. Neighbourhoods are safer and healthier when everyone has a home and supports that meet their needs, and this is a great example of how working together to house people helps the entire community.”

The NHC is pleased that the City of Nanaimo, BC Housing, Island Crisis Care and Nanaimo John Howard Society are committed to community engagement as they create more housing, and that they are fostering this community-wide, solutions-focused approach.

“Yesterday’s announcement is a positive sign that the work of the members of the Homeless Coalition and members of the Health & Housing Task Force are seeing concrete outcomes and making progress in finding solutions to the housing crisis,” says Kim Smythe, CEO, Nanaimo Chamber. “Any forward motion to provide relief to the business community and the community at large is very welcome news.” 

The NHC appreciates the teams at the City of Nanaimo, BC Housing and local service providers who are working hard to create much-needed permanent housing for those experiencing homelessness and precarious housing in our city.

Nanaimo continues to struggle with homelessness as indicated in the preliminary findings from the 2020 Point-in-Time count in June. The Count found that more than 425 people are currently experiencing homelessness but the real number is likely closer to 600. The pressure on the affordable housing supply and support systems in Nanaimo will only continue to increase.

National Housing Day in Canada is held annually on November 22nd, as an opportunity to reflect on the challenges Canadian communities are facing and to recognize the work that’s being to ensure every Canadian has a home.

Like many cities across Canada, Nanaimo is facing an affordable housing and homelessness crisis.  The recently published 2019 Nanaimo’s Vital Signs report shows that our city is struggling: 

  • 17.3% of Nanaimo’s population lives in poverty.
  • Almost half (47.4%) of Nanaimo’s renters are spending more than 30% of their income on housing. 
  • Increasing housing costs has made homeownership impossible for many
  • The number of people experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo almost doubled between 2016 and 2018.

See the full report here.

The Nanaimo Homeless Coalition recognizes the negative impact this crisis is having on our community and is working with all levels of government to take action.  

  • In 2017/18 BC Housing invested $5.1 million and the City of Nanaimo invested over $1 million.
  • In 2018, Nanaimo’s Action Plan to End Homelessness was developed by the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition and endorsed by City Council.
  • At the same time, the City adopted an Affordable Housing Strategy aimed at increasing housing options for all residents.
  • In May 2019, Nanaimo City Council approved the creation of a City-led Health and Housing Task Force to facilitate the implementation of these two plans.
  • Nanaimo receives annual Reaching Home funding from the federal government, which is allocated by the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition to local non-profits working to end homelessness.
  • The Nanaimo Homeless Coalition meets regularly to research, plan and share information on how to better serve Nanaimo’s at-risk residents.

The Nanaimo Homeless Coalition drives solutions to end homelessness by uniting the organizations, citizens and governments which support at-risk residents, while also working to diminish the harm caused by homelessness on individuals and community.


For more information on how the government is addressing the affordable housing and homelessness crisis, see the Province of B.C.’s statement on National Housing Day.

You can learn more about Canada’s National Housing Strategy  

Nanaimo’s Action Plan to End Homelessness

Nanaimo Affordable Housing Strategy

For more information on how each level of government is helping, visit the City of Nanaimo

You can also follow the conversation online with #nationalhousingday