West Kelowna council approved a provincial grant application requesting funding for a program that would support the community’s most vulnerable and those experiencing homelessness.
If selected as the recipient for the province’s Strengthening Communities’ Services grant of $157,193, the city’s program would see peer ambassadors who are working in partnership with a non-profit organization conduct outreach with the aforementioned groups. The grant would also fund a one-year-term city bylaw officer who would have specialized training in supporting the marginalized groups.
“The peer-ambassadors and the bylaw officer would work in tandem within the community, and ultimately work to provide support for those who need it most within the community,” said Mark Koch, the city’s director of development services, who presented the application to councillors during a regular council meeting on Tuesday, May 11.
If the grant is approved, the program would run from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022. According to Koch, the grant would cover all costs for the bylaw officer, including wages, administration, cost/benefits, uniform and armour, with the potential for the city to provide one of their own vehicles.
“Our council’s been certainly clear that they wish to provide support for those experiencing homelessness within the community, and understanding that this will complement parallel provincial efforts,” said Koch.
The Strengthening Communities’ Services program is a $100 million initiative of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), which aims to support people experiencing homelessness and address related community impacts. The goal of the program is to assist local governments and Treaty First Nations wishing to take action on this issue in their respective communities.
“This an opportunity for communities to try and work in tandem with our various partners,” said Koch.
Coun. Doug Findlater said he supports the idea and that he believes a lot of good will come out of it, but expressed concerns about the future of the program once the term concludes.
“What happens when the funding runs out to these positions and we like it?” said Findlater. “Does the city buck up and cover these positions? Or does the province come out with a 2.0 version of this program? That’s what I’m concerned about primarily.”
Koch however clarified that there’s no expectation that the program will continue after its one-year tenure.
“Although that certainly would be fantastic, if the province would provide a subsequent opportunity for the city to submit a similar application for,” said Koch. “But we don’t expect that to be the case at this stage.”
He added a sunset program that the city would work towards following the end of the program’s term is to have the bylaw officer identify connections and work with the existing resources so that the community is still being supported.
“We do have our community support specialist, which is an ongoing position, to try to provide those connections within the not-for-profit sector,” he said. “Ultimately, the goal is to work with our vulnerable population and move them along into varying stages of success.”