A made-in-Chilliwack action plan was formally adopted by council Tuesday to address homelessness and the pressing need for affordable housing.
“We spent countless hours getting it right,” said Coun. Ken Popove, after the meeting. Popove is chair of Healthier Community Committee and the CHC Housing First Task Group. “I think this is a step in the right direction, and it’s a plan that was moulded just for Chilliwack.”
Healthier Community Committee brought together 42 government and community partners over the past two years, to research, and draft the action plan using a Housing First approach.
“If we don’t do something, it’s going to get worse,” said Popove. “That’s why we’re doing what we can.”
There’s a consensus that tackling homelessness will take a concerted community response, even if the Chilliwack plan is contingent on senior levels of government, along with Fraser Health, coming to the table to fund subsidized housing.
Housing First is based on the premise that people would be better able to move forward with recovery and other issues if they were housed first, so key needs built into the plan are low-barrier housing options for adults and youth with supports, and affordable housing.
“Our big pie-in-the-sky goal is getting an actual ICM team with four bodies, that offers wrap-around services.”
Similar teams are starting up in Abbotsford and Mission.
A request for proposals went out recently for a nurse practitioner to coordinate a “virtual” ICM team for Chilliwack to assist some of the most challenged, he said.
“This is something new,” said the city councillor. “That person will spend quite a bit of time on the street, pulling a team together, and working with those who live on the streets.”
The idea for a multi-disciplinary team came from a Fraser Health official, involved in mental health.
“The virtual part is putting the team together, and working with outreach workers. It’s virtual because they’ll meet every couple of weeks.”
ICM, or intensive case management, uses a team-based approach to support clients. The goal is to help individuals obtain housing through developing plans, life skills, addressing substance use, and mental health needs.
The plan makes it clear that Chilliwack’s street entrenched need ICM, rent assistance, and more affordable housing. The community is also waiting for its funding share of: sobering beds, detox treatment beds, as well as youth shelter beds, transitional housing and supportive permanent subsidized housing.
There are currently no sobering mats or detox beds. There are only five youth shelter beds and there needs to be at least two more.
A total of $700,000 has been set in reserve in the city budget priorities for future Housing First initiatives.
Action Plan goals:
• Implement Housing First
• Increase supply of affordable housing
• Increase coordination amongst agencies
• Improve health and safety of the vulnerable
• Increase community awareness and build support
• Support initiatives that build self-esteem & support economic self sufficiency
“There’s still a long road ahead,” said Coun. Popove. “But I think we can make a difference.”