Castlegar city council has backed a regional homelessness initiative by Selkirk College. File photo

Castlegar city council has backed a regional homelessness initiative by Selkirk College. File photo

Regional homelessness project receives Castlegar and Nelson council support

The Selkirk College initiative is looking for municipal buy-in

by Timothy Schafer

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily

A concern over individual communities’ contributions to a regional homelessness problem was not enough to derail support for a Selkirk College-led project designed for the streets.

Called Bridging Rural Homelessness and Well-Being Project, it builds off of the social innovation project, Rural Homelessness and COVID-19, where street outreach services, provided by Selkirk nursing students, were delivered in Nelson, Trail and Castlegar.

The focus of the three-year project will be on the regional centres because that is where the services are stationed, said Jayme Jones of Selkirk College during the last Nelson city council regular meeting.

“The core idea behind the current proposal is that a regional response is required to address homelessness in the region,” she said. “To make a strong program you need regional buy-in.”

The college requested the city partner with it in the proposed project and — if the college’s funding was approved — that it provide a cash contribution of $7,500, in-kind support of up to $7,500 and a letter of support regarding the project proposal — all of which Nelson council eventually approved.

Jones said the college was requesting the same assistance from the cities of Castlegar and Trail. If all three cities stepped up it would provide the funds to “leverage additional to support a student nurse to do street outreach in the summer months for the next three years,” Jones explained.

The City of Castlegar approved the request at a Jan. 10 city council meeting.

The college had not yet approached the regional districts in the area (RDCK, RDKB) for support, instead focusing on establishing partnerships with Nelson, Trail and Castlegar first.

Councillor Rik Logtenberg wanted to see more than just the cities involved since the problem was “pervasive” in the area.

“We see the challenge of homelessness as a regional challenge here, certainly not just the responsibility or in the domain of the cities,” he said, referring to the potential involvement of the two encompassing regional districts, Central Kootenay and Kootenay Boundary.

The college is submitting a funding proposal to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada’s Community and College Social Innovation Fund to support the project.

“The money is specifically for college-based social innovation projects carried out in partnership with community organizations, including local governments,” a Nelson staff report noted.

“The college will contribute capacity through faculty and student resources,” Jones offered.

“If we are successful with this funding request, the project would start fall 2022, so there will be time to re-evaluate and plan for this time once we know the project will go ahead,” said Jones.