An ambitious set of goals designed to help some of the community’s most vulnerable members is behind Victoria’s application for millions in new provincial funding.
The city’s proposals for the Strengthening Communities’ Services Program grant range from peer outreach and temporary service support for people sheltering in parks, to a tiny homes project, a community safety initiative in Burnside Gorge and additional protective services at night. The application contains between $3 million and $4 million worth of proposals, but staff and council are hopeful the city will gain approval for more than the $2.5 million its population allows for under the grant guidelines.
Council approved the proposals on April 8. A $220,000 request from the Victoria Police Department for four evening shift officers to patrol parks with encampments through Sept. 30 was approved separately.
The grant program, administered by the Union of B.C. Municipalities will provide $100 million to support unsheltered populations and help communities address the resulting impacts of homelessness.
Mayor Lisa Helps called the program “extraordinary and unprecedented” for its direct focus on vulnerable populations and community issues made more extreme by the pandemic.
“There’s a little bit of everything in here and I hope the province funds every cent of it,” she said of the city’s application package.
Other community initiatives listed include a move-in mobilization and neighbourhood welcome program overseen by the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness; outreach services and supports for the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness, and a pilot project for a civilian-led mobile mental health crisis team guided by the Canadian Mental Health Association.
City services that would be beefed up include additional bylaw staff, who would work closely with peer outreach workers from local service providers in the field, and the creation of a service hotline for people experiencing homelessness as well as peer workers and service providers.