Chilliwack is finally getting access to federal homelessness prevention funds. (Black Press File Photo)

Chilliwack finally gets federal funding to fight homelessness

It took concerted effort from all levels to make it happen. Now two local projects are on the way.

Chilliwack never fit the funding criteria, until now.

Two Chilliwack projects have just received funding under the federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy, announced last week by Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl.

The changes reflect the concerted effort of many.

“I worked very hard to have Chilliwack included in the list of eligible communities for Homelessness Partnering Strategy funding,” said MP Strahl. “I’d like to congratulate Chilliwack Community Services and the Chilliwack Health and Housing Centre for their successful applications and for their work in addressing issues surrounding homelessness in our community.”

Community Services is set to receive $94,354 for a Youth Homelessness Prevention project, and the contact centre will see $55,000 to establish a Housing Services Coordinator.

Funding approval under HPS was only for designated communities or small rural communities in the past, and Chilliwack did not fit into either category.

But the local MP successfully advocated, along with the City of Chilliwack, FCM, UBCM and other individuals across the country, to have the strict eligibility rules changed to include Chilliwack and other communities.

In the face of growing homeless, Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) jointly recognized that the challenge of homelessness was truly a national concern required a long-term approach. They pushed for the feds to update the Homelessness Partnering Strategy’s list of “designated communities” eligible for funding in order to consider a broader range of factors.

Chilliwack mayor Sharon Gaetz and members of city council have pushed for those same changes for years.

Last summer Mayor Gaetz told residents to contact their MP, “and request that the federal government include Chilliwack as a designated community in their Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS).”

When the city approved its Chilliwack Homelessness Action Plan in 2016, one key element was identified as missing: targeted federal cash under HPS.

Since then, City of Chilliwack reps have called for changes to the eligibility rules.

Chilliwack was “pleased” to submit letters of support for Community Services and PCRS for the “newly available funding,” Gaetz said.

Chilliwack Community Services is already expressing gratitude for a prevention worker.

“It will help us to prevent youth homelessness by working with 15 young people who are at risk of homelessness to link them with safe and affordable long-term housing, complete their education, help deal with traumas which are often at the root of homelessness, gain access to youth based health care and gain life and employability skills,” said Diane Janzen, Executive Director of Chilliwack Community Services.

The contact centre will be hiring someone focused on housing issues. The new PCRS housing staffer will assess the housing rental market, open up resources, and build relationships with landlords to house people and keep them off the streets.