The local United Way is looking for community support to access new government funding to help deal with homelessness issues in the Cowichan Valley.
Melaina Patenaude, a community impact officer with the United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island, said the organization is sending letters to all local governments in the Cowichan Valley asking for memorandums of understanding from them as it works toward accessing funding for the region from the federal Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy program.
Letters were also sent to the offices of local MLAs, MPs, and a range of local non-profit organizations who provide services to homeless community members also asking for MOUs as part of the application process.
In a letter to the City of Duncan, Patenaude said Ottawa has announced it was expanding the program, which provides funding to urban, Indigenous, rural and remote communities to help them address their local homelessness needs, to include six new communities with populations of more than 25,000 people.
She said that the government launched a Call for Concepts process last February as the first step of the process of picking the new communities, and the communities in the Cowichan Valley could collectively receive up to $250,000 in long-term funding per year to help deal with homelessness issues if chosen.
The UWCNVI, with the support of the Cowichan Coalition to Address Homelessness and the Tze Tza Watul Community Advisory Board, submitted a CFC for the broader Cowichan region, not just Duncan.
At the end of the CFC process, 16 communities were shortlisted for further consideration, including the Cowichan Valley.
“The critical components of the evaluation criteria include whether the community has demonstrated capacity and readiness, a community plan, and demonstrated support and partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders that is best demonstrated through formalized arrangements, like memorandums of understanding, that will enable (the United Way) to facilitate a community-wide response to homelessness,” Patenaude said in the letter.
“The United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island was the only organization eligible to apply for this funding (in the Valley) and, therefore, no other applications have been submitted.”
Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy, launched on April 1, 2019, is designed to support the goals of the National Housing Strategy.
In particular, the program is intended to support the most vulnerable Canadians in maintaining safe, stable and affordable housing and to reduce chronic homelessness nationally by 50 per cent by 2028.
The program uses a third-party delivery model where a local organization, like the United Way in the Cowichan Valley, would enter into a funding agreement with Employment and Social Development Canada if the community is chosen.
The local organization then undertakes the responsibility to select, approve and manage projects in the community, based on the local priorities.
In the letter to the City of Duncan, Patenaude said the MOU request is for the city, and other local governments and organizations, to support the second step of the selection process, which is designed to assess a community’s readiness to administer the funds.
“It’s expected that the decision on the final set of communities will be reached in the winter of 2020,” she said.