The City of Kamloops is spending $1.47 million in government grant funding for the homeless through work opportunities and added training for municipal officials, while also reimbursing previous investments.
The municipality has received $1,469,633 through the provincial Strengthening Communities Services program to support people in Kamloops who are facing homelessness due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city is spending the money on various activities which must be concluded by July 19, 2022, City of Kamloops recreation, arts, and culture manager, Barbara Berger, told KTW.
“That was one of the things when we made the application that we had to be cognizant of, is that we didn’t create an initiative that the minute the funding ended left a massive gap,” Berger said. “That was why we wanted to make sure that part of a legacy of this was to do some really good training.”
Approximately $155,000 of the grant will be spent on diversity and sensitivity training for city representatives and other emergency and enforcement service providers who regularly interact with people experiencing mental-health or addiction issues, with a focus on providing culturally safe and trauma-informed responses.
Those funds will be available to community service organizations, peer outreach workers, community service officers and other frontline workers, Berger said.
About $147,000 of the funding will go toward implementing peer-support training and employment opportunities for people who in the past have been homelessness. Those individuals will be paid for work activities, such as picking up litter and discarded needles and syringes in various Kamloops neighbourhoods and engaging with their vulnerable peers via the ASK Wellness Society’s peer support training program.
“We’re looking at a more holistic approach to our outreach as opposed to it being perceived on our streets as just enforcement,” Berger said. “We really want to try and support those people experiencing homelessness by getting them directed more to where they can seek day shelter or if they’re in need of some kind of services.”
The initiative builds on a similar program that was delivered by the city in 2019 and 2020 and supports the best practices in harm reduction.
Additionally, the grant funds will be used to hire 5.5 full-time additional community services officers (formerly bylaws) for the next year, to be stationed in neighbourhoods that have experienced high levels of vandalism.
A little more than $309,000 of those funds is being allocated for those five positions, Berger told KTW, noting there have been many social issues identified on Kamloops streets and the added officers are part of ensuring people feel safe in public spaces as amidst B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan.
The city is using $663,866 to reimburse itself for security services it hired between September 2020 and June 2021, while another $187,000 is going toward additional security for night and weekend shifts moving forward.
“Based on consultation with community service providers, one of the most pressing issues is providing safety and security during times when shelters and community service providers are not operational, such as evenings and weekends,” Berger said. “This grant funding will allow the city to work collaboratively with service providers to address challenges through a multifaceted approach over the next year.”
The Strengthening Communities Services program is administered through the Union of BC Municipalities on behalf of the provincial government. The program has more than $76 million for outreach projects, temporary shelters and mental-health supports for people experiencing homelessness. Kamloops is one of 48 communities in B.C. receiving grant funding.
Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week