Trail, Nelson, Castlegar React to Bridging Rural Homelessness Project

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(Image previously provided by Selkirk College: Nursing Program students Amanda Sigurdson (left) and Jordan Sherstobitoff (right) were part of the Rural Homelessness and COVID-19 Project that sparked this latest initiative.)

A project proposal from Selkirk College was positively received by City Councils in Trail, Castlegar and Nelson last week.

The College's Bridging Rural Homelessness and Well-Being project covers a cross-regional approach to addressing homelessness by conducting research, building relationships, bringing together service centres and streamlining efforts. Part of Selkirk’s request to the three municipalities is for $7500 in financial support to allow paid student intern positions to offer street outreach nursing services in Trail, Castlegar and Nelson over three years. The idea branches off the success of Selkirk’s Rural Homelessness and COVID-19 social innovation project.

Trail City Council was the first municipality to receive the presentation on January 10th and approved the College’s requests at their Governance and Operations Committee Meeting. Councillor Sandi Santori was supportive but wonders why the Regional Districts are seemingly left out:

“You know there are homeless people from Fruitvale that end up in Trail and people from Thrums that end of in Castlegar and people from Taghum that go to Nelson, so if we truly want to support it on a regional basis and get regional buy-in….”

Presenters explain that they're in talks with the Regional Districts (RDKB and RDCK) on a side-project that could later be amalgamated. Mayor Lisa Pasin tells another City Councillor that a streamlined project is expected to see some natural overlap in services:

“As far as some of the issues that you said like counselling and the safe supplies; those are actually being given out and provided at CDS in Trail and what this is doing is it’s building capacity because we don’t have street nurses all the time.”

Castlegar City Council received the run-down from Selkirk presenters later that night on January 10th, but their biggest debate was on where the funds would come from. Council debated spreading out the funding contributions over the three years but Councillor Dan Rye preferred funding their portion upfront:

“Then it’s done, it’s clean, we’ve given them the money. If we say we’re going to give them $2500 over the next three years, I know we say this a lot, but we’re tying a future council to something that they might disagree with.”

Council voted to support the requests despite locking down where the financial contribution would be allocated from. Mayor Kirk Duff says the project is a great opportunity to address current goals:

“I fully support this because it does support our own initiatives locally with the collaborative group, so it does support those activities, which is good and that was one of the questions we had during those collaboratives: How do we connect and coordinate between communities?

Next up to bat was Nelson City Council, with their presentation from Project Coordinators held on January 11th. Council was generally in favor of the initiative but there was some concern that other municipalities wouldn’t offer the same level of commitment. Councillor Cal Renwick made the amendment that if Castlegar and Trail aren't involved, neither is Nelson:

“Each time it comes up, it comes around as ‘we need more regional support’ and I think this is the time when, I would like to approve this but I would like to amend the resolution to say ‘we’re in if Trail and Castlegar are in’….”

Other Councillors appreciated Renwick’s spirit but couldn’t support the amended motion. Councillor Jesse Woodward explains:

“To kill a project like that because we don’t get total buy-in, (it’s) very dangerous. I think we need to support these kinds of efforts, we have a huge poverty problem, it’s extremely expensive and only getting more expensive as we know….:”

Selkirk’s other requests include letters of support from each municipality and in-kind support though participation of a homelessness advisory team. The advisory team is proposed to meet quarterly and also participate in an annual summit. The Bounce Radio Newsroom will have more to follow.