City hall is slated to receive $200,000 earmarked for increased services for people experiencing homelessness, the province announced Aug. 12.
The funds will come from the federal and provincial governments, to be issued through a grant by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM).
Speaking to The Gazette shortly after the province’s announcement, Coun. Everett Baker said the grant reflects city council’s positive working relationship with housing minister David Eby.
Baker was appointed in March to lead ongoing negotiations with Eby regarding potential homelessness solutions, one of which involves the long-established tenement at the city’s so-called “Motocross site” (Moto) on Morrissey Creek Road. The city applied for the grant at around the same time, he said.
“I was pleased because [the grant] was certainly something the minister and I spoke about in our early days. He wrote a letter signalling his support and that’s one of the reasons I think we received the grant,” Baker said.
The grant will pay for additional public services for the city’s homeless population, as well as a new bylaw officer to work with people living at makeshift tent sites across the city. Some funds will go towards cleanup efforts at campsites.
Once hired, the bylaw officer will work with people experiencing homelessness, especially by encouraging them to move into the shelter now operating at the old Hardy View Lodge. The shelter is managed and staffed by Boundary Family Services.
It is not clear if the organization will see any of the city’s grant money. “Boundary Family Services is unaware of any grant opportunities from the city,” executive director Darren Pratt said in an interview with The Gazette.
Coun. Baker meanwhile qualified that the grant isn’t directly related to his and Eby’s talks around the proposed Moto project. “Moto is still a work in progress,” he said.
If approved, the city, which owns Moto, would transfer ownership of part of the site to the province, with the understanding that BC Housing would use the land to build a supportive housing facility and a permanent shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
Roly Russell, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen, said he was happy the grant came through. Noting that politicians don’t award grants, Russell said, “I’ve been working with the local community and minister Eby’s office on a broad scale to find a meaningful solution when it comes to homelessness in Grand Forks.”