$100 million to tackle homelessness, support people, strengthen communities’ health and safety

BUILDING on the Province’s commitment to help people and communities through the pandemic, local governments and Treaty First Nations may now apply for $100 million in grants to address the impacts of homelessness, support people and strengthen communities’ health and safety.

“Communities are doing incredible work to support people experiencing homelessness and boost health and safety right now,” said Josie Osborne, Minister of Municipal Affairs, on Thursday. “But COVID-19 has made it more difficult to deliver services and made homelessness more visible with reduced shelter capacity. That’s been hard on people experiencing homelessness and on communities.

“The new Strengthening Communities’ Services funding will support local governments and Treaty First Nations as they work to address the impacts of homelessness and keep people and communities safe and healthy though the pandemic.”

The Strengthening Communities’ Services Program is the next step in ongoing support for communities to help them respond to pressures caused by the pandemic. This new program will provide grants to temporarily support communities to meet emerging health and safety needs on the ground. This can include projects like:

* temporary services (e.g., expanding shelter capacity, temporary facilities; fire safety, water access and outreach teams to connect people to resources);

* work to reduce community concerns about public health and safety and foster communication and co-operation (e.g., neighbourhood liaison programs, peer-based clean-up activities, storage for belongings and support for community safety and bylaw services); and

* improving service co-ordination and capacity building (e.g., developing peer teams, initiatives to connect people to health services and training to support culturally safe and trauma-informed responses).

This builds on the Province’s investments in housing and its response to homelessness during COVID-19, including thousands of addtional shelter spaces, temporary self-isolation spaces and new supportive housing. It is intended to support people and communities’ immediate needs due to COVID-19, as B.C. continues working in partnership with municipalities to build more homes for people.

This new program is application based and open to all local governments, including municipalities, regional districts and the Islands Trust, as well as modern Treaty First Nations. Applicants must show their projects respond to a demonstrated need in the community and are a temporary-surge response to immediate needs. Evaluators will also be looking for demonstrated partnership and engagement with Indigenous partners and plans to include perspectives of people with lived experience.

The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) is administering the program on behalf of the Province and will accept applications until April 16, with approvals expected in spring.

“Homelessness is a reality in communities across British Columbia. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the existing services for people who are unhoused have been sorely challenged by the need to deliver services in compliance with health and safety orders,” said Brian Frenkel, President, UBCM. “This new program will provide much needed funding to support the adaptation and innovation of service delivery to better meet current needs. UBCM was pleased to work with the province on the program’s design and the development of program materials to support this launch.”

Local governments and Treaty First Nations are encouraged to submit applications for this funding through UBCM’s website: https://www.ubcm.ca/EN/main/funding/lgps/strengthening-communities-services.html

The program is part of the Safe Restart Agreement, which is equally funded by the Province and the Government of Canada.