Chilliwack’s new status as a “designated community” under Reaching Home, the federal homelessness strategy, is going to make a difference in the way it fights homelessness.
City officials were beyond thrilled and gratified to learn of their successful application to become a ‘Designated Community’ after striving to make it happen alongside community partners, said Mayor Ken Popove.
It will finally give Chilliwack access to stable, long-term funding to fight homelessness.
“In the midst of all the concerns surrounding the current COVID-19 pandemic, we haven’t forgotten about the most vulnerable members of our community and are happy that we will be able to continue taking steps forward to help those who most need it,” Popove said.
Chilliwack is set to receive $1.7 million in funding over the next four years from the feds to prevent and reduce homelessness in Chilliwack. So it will receive $296,765, in 2020, and the amount will increase to $473,671 per year after that.
The city will administer the funds, and establish a community advisory board to decide how funds will be allocated based on made-in-Chilliwack priorities and a community plan.
Part of the funding will also be used to design and implement a coordinated intake process for individuals and families who are experiencing or at-risk of homelessness by 2021-22.
One of the services that they might be able to bring back from the brink is the Chilliwack Housing Hub, the mayor cited as an example. Funding ran out recently and they had to lay off people, despite being able to show successes from the systems based hub model.
It’s “quite an accomplishment” for Chilliwack to have been chosen as one of only six new designated communities under the federal strategy, according to Bill Raddatz, executive director of Ruth and Naomi’s Mission (RAN).
“I thought it was great, especially since I don’t see the plight of the homeless getting better,” Raddatz said. “I only see it getting worse.”
The numbers from the 2020 Homeless Count aren’t in yet, but Raddatz said he predicts the local numbers will have grown from the last total of 221 in 2017, and could be upwards of 250 to 300.
“The federal government wants to see a reduction in homelessness of 50 per cent by 2027, so if there is going to be money going around to do that, it will certainly be good to get some of it in our pockets,” Raddatz said.
There will be no shortage of ways to use the funds, and RAN is waiting to see what the criteria will be for accessing the funding will be.
“That will be pivotal, because to effectively end homelessness in Chilliwack, it is going to take millions, not hundreds of thousands,” Raddatz said.
RAN Mission feeds more than 200 people per day, as well as providing other supportive services aside from shelter services, including faith-based residential recovery beds, a Family Centre, and The Portal shelter. They work with those experiencing homelessness, poverty and addiction every day with their supportive staff and network of volunteers.
But either way, the numbers of those experiencing homelessness in Chilliwack will likely rise, and Raddatz said, he doesn’t fault the city, the feds, or the province either for that fact.
“It’s just the reality we are dealing with, the economy, the impact of COVID-19, it is going to have an impact on the town.”
They’ve noticed at RAN they are giving out more meals than ever right now so the numbers are bound to be on the rise, despite almost 100 supportive housing units having been built, and more housing related infrastructure established in the past year.
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