The timing was just right for a workshop that drew non-profit, municipal, and provincial leaders to Trail this week to talk about affordable and supportive housing, says a front-line support worker.
“I think I’ve got a renewed commitment to meet with other agencies that support the population we support, which is individuals with really complex housing needs,” says Sheila Adcock, Career Development Services manager.
“We can’t move forward with other initiatives we are looking at with crime reduction (Trail’s newly formed Community Safety Task Force) and other supportive issues and concerns from our citizens without assuring that these individuals have the housing they need, which is supportive housing.”
Adcock was one of 40+ attendees from service disciplines such as the RCMP, Interior Health, Trail FAIR, and local councils, who were part of a Tuesday session hosted by the Skills Centre and funded by Columbia Basin Trust.
“Promoting increased coordination amongst affordable housing providers is one element of the Thriving for All Poverty Reduction Project,” explains Jan Morton, from the Lower Columbia Affordable Housing Society.
“Which has, and is continuing, to be led by the Skills Centre in the Lower Columbia Region.”
The meeting mostly revolved around funding streams and opportunities available to house vulnerable populations, with representatives from BC Housing on hand, and Rob Jaswal, a housing specialist from Canada Mortgage and Housing, giving a general overview via Skype.
While Jaswal touched on high-level financial investment concepts, he also broke down the National Housing Strategy into more relatable terms, or three core principles that, whittled down, are pertinent to the local home front.
Housing strategies must meet the needs of individuals with distinct housing needs, projects must create a new generation of housing, and importantly, success can only be achieved through partnerships.
Collaboration is key for federal funding, and he stressed that municipal governments must be on board.
That was also the message from BC Housing – municipal partners are critical to get projects off the ground, whether it be financially or otherwise, such as re-zoning properties and allowing variances.
“Councils can’t take all the heat, they need support from other agencies as well,” advised Danna Locke, regional director for BC Housing. “And we are open to try to fit our programs to what you need in your community. It’s not you fitting into our (needs) but how we fit into your needs.”
Being that there is no supportive housing in Trail, Adcock is ready to take that message and start those discussions.
It’ll be a rocky road as supportive housing often draws sensitivity from the community, but she’s ready for it.
“Real supportive housing is 24/7,” she said. “The individuals that are housed in that supportive model will have the expertise on site and the supports on site that they need to be able to make some changes in their life.”
According to BC Housing, the province has committed $1.2 billion over 10 years to deliver 2,500 new homes with 24/7 support services for people who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.
“I think the community is ready for the discussion because they are saying to us, how can we help this population that we are seeing on the streets and in our backyards,” Adcock said.
“I think they are ready to hear that supportive housing is a place that people can (live) and have help with somebody on site 24/7. And we need to get these individuals housed so we can move forward with the help.”
A local example of federal, provincial and municipal governments successfully coming together for affordable (not supportive) housing is Silver City Gardens in East Trail in 2004. Partnership contributions toward the $3.9 million capital cost included: the government of Canada, through the Canada-BC Affordable Housing Agreement, provided a $900,000 capital grant; the provincial government, through BC Housing, is providing an annual operating subsidy of $4.4 million over 35 years; the City of Trail acquired and rezoned the land for a total equity contribution of $313,000; and the CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association)is leasing the site from the City of Trail for a 60-year term for $10; and Interior Health is providing home care for eligible tenants.