The rent bank in Nanaimo has only existed for a month and a half, but already applications for loans are being sent in daily.
It’s great to see residents in need reaching out for help, says John McCormick, co-executive director of the Nanaimo Region John Howard Society, the organization that’s running the rent bank. But this quick uptake of the rent bank also reflects how many Nanaimo citizens are on the brink of losing their homes.
“We’ve just started up and not done much in the way of advertising … [and] every day we’re getting more,” says McCormick.
“I expect that’s how it’s going to be.”
But the rent bank is ready to step in to help, providing zero-interest loans so people in immediate need can keep from losing their housing, by paying for rental arrears or essential utility arrears.
“Someone contacts us because they’ve hit that moment where they’re going to get evicted if they don’t come up with the rent,” says McCormick of the purpose of the rent bank.
“It’s an emergency situation, so the response times have to be super fast. We have to go from a pre-assessment to a working relationship with the person in a few days, and working with their landlord.”
“These are folks who are not going to get the support they need from a financial institution of any kind, and if they do they will be in a predatory situation where they are going to be preyed upon,” he says.
With the rent bank, repayments can be small, and pauses in repayments are allowed when necessary.
“We want you to be stabilized,” says McCormick. “We’re going to make sure you’re not going to be evicted, and everything else we’ll work with you on.”
McCormick noted that the rent bank is focused on dealing with short-term need, and cannot address every issue. Nonetheless, there are other supports available, he noted. Even if the rent bank isn’t the right fit, connecting with the Nanaimo Region John Howard Society can help those in need connect with other forms of support.
Currently, the maximum loan amounts noted on the Nanaimo Region John Howard Society’s Rent Bank web page are:
-$1,400 for individuals
-$1,700 for families
-$500 for essential utility arrears.
For more info about the rent bank, or to apply for a loan, go to johnhowardbc.ca/nanaimo/services/rent-bank/ .
The rent bank is funded by the City of Nanaimo, BC Rent Bank, United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island and the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy.
- Food Security Working Group of the Health and Housing Task Force To create an action-oriented Food Security Plan. To participate, contact: Karin Kronstal, Social Planner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-755-4430.
- The City has started facilitating regular meetings with shelter providers, Island Health and BC Housing to coordinate a response for unsheltered residents who need access to self-isolation because they have been tested as COVID-positive or are presumptive. If you are a shelter provider for those who are unsheltered (and are not already involved) please contact Karin Kronstal, Social Planner at email@example.com or 250-755-4430.
- The City is organizing a meeting with BC Rent Bank and local service providers, non-profits or financial institutions that have an interest in supporting or operating a local rent bank. If you are interested in participating please contact Dave Stewart, Social Planner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-755-4491.
- Three additional portable washrooms with hand sanitization facilities have been installed:
1. On Wesley Street, near the Overdose Prevention Site
2. Outside the Community Services Building at 285 Prideaux Street, near the 7-10 Club breakfast program
3. Across the road from the Salvation Army New Hope Centre, at the intersection of Cavan/Nicol/Esplanade
- The washroom hours at Diana Krall Plaza have been extended to 24 hours daily. There is also 24/7 water access outside this washroom.
- City washrooms typically open this time of year remain open (excluding those in currently closed recreation centres or other city facilities).
- The Unitarian Shelter, along with other shelters that continue to operate (Salvation Army, Samaritan House, etc.) provide washroom access during the evenings for their shelter clients.
- Drinking water access has been improved through measures to adapt water fountains to meet current safety standards. This includes:
1. Maffeo Sutton Park
2. Dallas Square, near the cenotaph
3. Wharf Street Loo, in the Diana Krall Plaza
- The City continues to provide a shower program at Caledonia Park, operated by the First Unitarian Church. The program operates five days a week from 7 a.m. – 10 a.m.
Income & Expenses
UPDATE – April 28, 2020:
Nanaimo is set to receive $200,000 in Indigenous funding and $200,000 in Designated funding. The Nanaimo Homeless Coalition will decide how and where this funding is spent to make the biggest impact possible in our region.
On March 18, as part of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, the Federal Government announced an additional $157.7 million for the Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy.
- Improving access to essential food support – $100 million to organizations like the Salvation Army, Food Banks Canada, Community Food Centres Canada, and Breakfast Club of Canada
- Enhancing the Reaching Home initiative – $157.5 million to the Reaching Home initiative. Nanaimo receives Reaching Home funding through United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island. More information to come on when and how these funds will be received.
- Women’s shelters and sexual assault centres – $50 million to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres, including facilities in Indigenous communities, to help with their capacity to manage or prevent an outbreak in their facilities.
- Youth support: mental health – $7.5 million in funding to Kids Help Phone to provide young people with the mental health support they need during this difficult time.
- Seniors – $9 million through United Way Canada for local organizations to support practical services to Canadian seniors. These services could include the delivery of groceries, medications, or other needed items, or personal outreach to assess individuals’ needs and connect them to community supports.
Resources for Service Providers