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Strathcona Regional District to apply for more Strengthening Communities Services Program funding

Report highlights successes so far, and ‘identifies gaps that need to be addressed’ says director
The Hama?Elas Community Kitchen in downtown Campbell River is one of the services that stands to benefit from the second round of funding. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror

The Strathcona Regional District is applying for the Strengthening Communities Services Program grant again this year, after seeing success with the funding for 2021/22.

In 2021, the SRD, in partnership with the City of Campbell River and the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness (CRDCEH) as well as several other community agencies made a joint application for funds for issues related to homelessness. They were awarded just over $1 million in 2021. A second round of funding was announced in March.

RELATED: SRD secures $1 million grant to support people suffering from homelessness

The grant program was developed by the Union of B.C. Muncipalities (UBCM) to improve the health and safety of people experiencing homelessness, to reduce community impacts of homelessness, improve service coordination and to increase local capacity for service delivery. SRD staff gave the board a report on the results of the funding received thus far, and proposed new uses for the second round of funding.

These include operational funds for the Hama?Elas Kitchen, the Campbell River and District Food Bank, and increasing non-profit capacity to address homelessness, community needs, and service delivery.

A few directors questioned whether pursuing further funding was the right course of action to when it comes to homelessness. Electoral area D director Brenda Leigh said that despite the last grant being for over $1 million, “no housing units, no sheltering was provided.

“Now you’re proposing another grant to spend on the food bank and soup kitchen,” she said. “I don’t see addressing of the homeless question. There’s no accomodation being provided. There wasn’t even a warming centre or anything. In the extreme weather this winter, there was nothing except if they did have a hotel room or something being provided by social services.

“I just see a lot of pathetic scenes downtown with ambulances rolling up,” Leigh said. “The provincial government needs to step in and provide housing for these people… I don’t think that local government should be involved because we’re not doing a great job, in my opinion.”

Campbell River director Claire Moglove said that there were capacity issues this year over the winter, which led to the lack of extreme weather shelter in Campbell River.

“This is complementary to housing need,” Moglove said about the scope of the grant. “All of these services are vital to those experiencing homelessness or on the verge of homelessness.”

RELATED: No emergency weather shelter yet for unhoused Campbell Riverites

Campbell River Director Charlie Cornfield told the board that he had a number of concerns, including the safety of people experiencing homelessness in the downtown area, what would happen after the grant period is over and whether or not community concerns about homelessness have been reduced over the past year.

“I haven’t received anything that shows community concern is being reduced,” he said.

SRD Strategic Initiatives Manager Renée Laboucane said that clean-up programs, access to community resources and peer support are ways that community concerns are being reduced.

Campbell River Director Colleen Evans said that the report showed “the impact we’ve had.

“It identifies the gaps that need to be address, but I do think that the work that has been done… has certainly shown some success,” she said, adding that homelessness is a “very complex issue.”

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