Homelessness has many causes ranging from addictions, mental health and other disability issues to lack of job skills, low paying part-time jobs, increasingly high rents …the list is long. When we’ve had so many years of social service and health cutbacks it has left us with the situation that Discontent City is a symptom of. The immediate bandaid solution is to open shelters such as the Unitarian Church has done. We need to look at using the “Housing First” model that the City of Medicine Hat, AB has adopted. (see https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/medicine-hat-homeless-free-update-1.3949030 ) In the mid-term we can look at solutions such as the Surrey modular homes that were set up for a tent city of homeless residents (for details see https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/surrey-tent-city-moving-day-1.4711693 ) The BC government needs to fund more of these. Unfortunately, the real long term solutions to homelessness are not overnight ones but here are mine:
1-The new Council needs to take a leadership role in growing affordable housing. Our current shortage of affordable housing is one of the root causes of homelessness. This clearly does not include letting $7 million of Provincial money fly away. Sitting passively, hoping that Federal or Provincial housing money arrives in Nanaimo is not a plan. We need to actively seek out this money, lobbying for it and squawking loudly to get our share. As part of a plan we need to encourage and assist community groups that are interested in building affordable housing. The recently completed Nuutsumuut Lelum on Bowen Rd and the recently renovated Sanala Housing (previously the notorious slum complex known as King Arthur Court) are examples of what’s required; but many more of these need to be built, not just one offs. Another source of affordable housing is nonprofit co-op housing. Why does Nanaimo have none while Victoria has plenty?? The new Council needs to work on establishing these in Nanaimo also.
2-Council needs to provide leadership in obtaining much better Mental Health and Addictions services for Nanaimo as these problems are also a cause of homelessness. The new BC government has a separate Minister assigned to this. Council has to lobby hard to upgrade these services for Nanaimo. It’s a cop-out to say these are Provincial responsibilities. The Province and the Feds have the money for these services but we need to get it working in Nanaimo.
3-To borrow an old slogan; we need “Jobs,Jobs,Jobs” in Nanaimo. And not minimum wage jobs where people are always one paycheque away from being homeless. Council must develop a plan to attract investment in industry and self-employment that pays living wages. Nanaimo has so much to offer employers and entrepreneurs. The tech industry is one that comes to mind but there are many more. Nanaimo has a well respected university that could be a catalyst in attracting well paying jobs. We have to work hard to let potential investors know that Nanaimo is a place to set up.
If I’m elected I’ll work diligently not just on bandaid solutions but on eliminating the root causes of homelessness in Nanaimo.