The City of Port Alberni has received more than $400,000 in grant funding to assist its unsheltered homeless population.
On Aug. 12, the provincial government announced that Port Alberni received $443,126 in joint provincial and federal funding from the Strengthening Communities Program. The funding will be used for “improving the health and safety of Port Alberni’s unsheltered homeless,” according to a press release.
City CAO Tim Pley explained that the grant program had “very specific” eligibility criteria, so there were only a few projects that were eligible for funding. The funded work is for several separate projects, including:
1. Hiring a Homeless Support Coordinator to assist city bylaw services, the parks department and RCMP. The coordinator will assist people experiencing homelessness and put them in contact with housing providers and other support agencies.
2. Temporary employment of unsheltered homeless people.
3. Youth outreach and programming for unsheltered homeless people.
4. Drop-in centre services that include washrooms, showers and laundry capabilities.
Pley says the city will engage third parties to undertake most of the proposed work that has been funded. City council will discuss the grant during their next meeting (Sept. 7).
Port Alberni city council voted to apply for this funding back in April 2021. Economic development manager Pat Deakin explained at the time that the grant is specifically for unsheltered homeless people, or people who are not living in a shelter. This means that the funding cannot go towards housing.
“The program is really looking to see activities that are temporary in nature, bridging to other, longer-term funding sources,” Deakin said.
Overall, the Strengthening Communities Program is providing more than $76 million in funding to 48 communities across B.C. The grants are meant to help local governments combat the impacts of homelessness and keep their communities safe and healthy as they recover from COVID-19.
Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne says vulnerable people in Port Alberni will have greater access to local services, which will help tackle homelessness as the community recovers from the impacts of the pandemic.
“People in Port Alberni work hard every day to make our community a brighter, more welcoming place to live,” said Osborne. “We’re supporting the city’s work to connect vulnerable people with important services, and working towards a community where everyone is safe and healthy.”
A homeless count took place in Port Alberni in April of this year. Results are expected to be released soon.