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Trail helps fund full time nursing student for homeless

Trail support helps Selkirk College project secure funds for homelessness and well-being project
Selkirk College nursing students will provide year-round support for Trail’s transient and homeless population through the Bridging Rural Homelessness and Well-Being Project. Photo: Jim Bailey

The City of Trail will contribute $7,500 in funding for a year-round nursing student from Selkirk College for a street outreach service for the homeless.

Selkirk College nursing instructor Rob Tanner and researcher Jayme Jones met with the Trail Governance and Operations Committee (GOC) on Monday, Jan. 10 to present the Bridging Rural Homelessness and Well-Being Project.

“Homelessness is on the rise in the region, Trail is no exception to that, and especially with the colliding crises with the housing, overdose and toxic drugs, and the pandemic, it creates a complex situation where we really need to have an innovative regional response,” said Jones.

Selkirk College is applying for funding from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Community Social Innovation Fund to build a regional approach to addressing homelessness in the West Kootenay.

The funding will provide $120,000 per year over three years for Selkirk College’s innovative project that is carried out in cooperation with the communities of Trail, Nelson and Castlegar.

Each community was asked to contribute $7,500 and in-kind support, which will ensure a year-round nursing student for each community for three years.

Project leads consulted with local organizations to identify and prioritize research objectives and structure services, as well as promote collaboration between the communities and to strengthen relationships and communication.

The project will set up an advisory team made up of representatives from the respective councils, individuals and organizations, which will also engage in an annual West Kootenay Homelessness Response Summit.

It will mobilize college resources, faculty and students, to work with the communities on various action projects and priorities, and “the last key piece is to adapt our nursing student street outreach program to be year round,” said Jones.

As part of its Nursing 351 class, third-year students have worked with Trail’s homeless and transient population for the past three years, but only for fall, winter and spring semesters (September to May).

The nurses provide a variety of supports including wound care, harm reduction supplies, health services referrals, warm clothes as well as counseling and housing supports in the respective communities.

In addition, what the nurses take away from their experience has been invaluable.

“There is an incredible amount of learning and awareness that happens for our students, many of whom have never experienced or come face-to-face with these types of barriers that the individuals that we work with quite often experience,” said Tanner.

Successful proposals for an innovation funding request requires strong partnerships with local governments and community-based organizations. The participation of councils from Trail, Nelson, and Castlegar is key in helping the college leverage funding to make the project a reality.

“There is so much great work being done in each community but it seems to be being done in Silos. And anything we can do to help minimize that, start bringing people together and start learning from what other folks are doing, as well as recognizing what the various communities are doing really well, I think would be a really helpful and supportive thing for a lot of the folks that we work with,” said Tanner.

Selkirk researcher, Jones, added that the project plans to include students such as those in Social Work and bridging business students to help with care and potential employment.

She also shared that their 2020 study indicated the benefits of the student-nurse outreach program.

“Through the research, those experiencing homelessness also emphasized that the street-nurse outreach is very helpful to them, so there’s been data already starting to be collected showing the need for this.” said Jones. “We’re listening and seeing the need and hoping to help that need through this project.”

Read: Paramedic calls for overdoses double in Greater Trail

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Jim Bailey

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