A new three-year agreement between City of Chilliwack and PCRS will keep the Housing Hub going and will keep some recently housed individuals in their new homes.
Council agreed last week to provide project operators, Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS), with $110,000 a year to run the Housing Hub until 2022 — or until more sustainable funding materializes.
The Housing Hub initiative has managed to transition 29 people off the streets and into market rental housing in less than a year.
Coun. Jason Lum said he views the Housing Hub as “a fantastic program,” into which the city initially contributed $30,000 on a one-time basis for the pilot project.
“My only caveat is that it pulls the city deeper into the housing and social service game,” Lum said, adding he wanted to “flag” the fact that any funding now should be contingent upon other governments agreeing to pony up with more sustainable funding.
“I don’t want the city to come in and continually bail out good projects that are not necessarily in our mandate,” Lum said.
Mike Sikora, social development coordinator for the city, confirmed that the new Housing Hub fee-for-service agreement ratified by council last week was inked on an interim basis, while the local hub operators continue to apply for funding from other agencies and senior levels of government.
Total budget for the Housing Hub program is about $450,000. Should the government step forward in the coming months with a plan for long-term funding plan for Chilliwack’s housing hub, the city will step back from their contributions, Sikora added.
Housing is under provincial jurisdiction, but city officials have offered to waive fees for affordable housing projects, and provide support wherever possible, ever since homeless numbers skyrocketed locally in recent years.
PCRS hired Graham McMahon in 2018 to co-ordinate the pilot Housing Hub project, along with a housing support facilitator, and he set to work with local landlords to secure market rental units. They conducted home visits once people moved in, managed rental subsidies, and assisted participants to access community support services.
“Participants are matched to the housing that best suits them, with priority given to those who are most vulnerable, are chronically and recently homeless, or at imminent risk of homelessness,” according to the staff report.
The hub facilitates two kinds of housing, independent rental units where the tenant’s name is on the agreement with the landlord, and the other is congregate living the PCRS name appears on the agreement. The tenants in congregate housing get a locked bedroom and share common spaces.
Participants in both kinds of housing receive weekly home visits from Housing Hub staff to provide support and ensure the units are being cared for, which is key.
Mayor Ken Popove said after the council meeting that the freshly inked agreement represents Chilliwack’s commitment to this unique initiative for Chilliwack.
“We don’t want to be in the housing business but we do see the value of this,” Popove said.
Finding housing for 29 people, and maintaining it with support services, is a notable achievement.
“If that is not a success, I don’t know what is,” the mayor added. “We hope it gets to the point where it can sustain itself.”