City focusing on short-term needs of the homeless

City council will help the city’s Homelessness Coalition address the immediate needs of the community’s street people rather than wait to save up for a long-term affordable housing project.

At Tuesday’s meeting, city council voted in favour of spending 25 per cent of a $319,644 lump sum from the Vancouver Island Health Authority to address the short-term needs of the city’s homeless.

As was reported in Wednesday’s Mirror, roughly $45,000 of that will go towards keeping the city’s Extreme Weather Shelter open every single night this winter from now until March 31 – a first for Campbell River.

Paul Mason, the chair of the Homelessness Coalition, told council the coalition came to an agreement that there are pressing needs in the community that need to be addressed now.

“We haven’t lost sight of our goal, we’re just saying that there’s people out there right now,” Mason said.

“There’s things we can do. We have the opportunity to do this and we feel it’s what the community needs.”

Mason originally came before council in September to ask for the funding to be released to the coalition to be put aside for a 30-unit, co-ed affordable housing facility, consistent with the coalition’s housing first model.

That model focuses on harm reduction through the provision of permanent low-barrier, supportive housing.

The goal is to immediately house those who are homeless no matter what their situation, whether they engage in substance abuse or they struggle with mental illness.

But Mason said the affordable housing project will be an expensive one and the 25 per cent it will be taking from the lump sum wouldn’t make much of an impact anyway in the grand scheme of things.

“We’re looking at several million dollars so the $79,000 we have right now doesn’t really make much of an impact on our bargaining power,” Mason said.

“We’re still investigating other avenues of funding that we can tap into.”

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