Coquitlam's bid in seeking cash to address the increase in its homelessness population has been granted.
Today (Aug. 12), the city was awarded a total of $306,081 from the Union of B.C. Municipalities' (UBCM) $100-million COVID-19 Restart Funding for Local Governments — also known as Strengthening Community Services 2021.
In a release from B.C.'s ministry of municipal affairs, the money is earmarked for training and education, as well as social service providers in expanding outreach opportunities.
Coquitlam city councillors approved the bid's submission in early May after noticing a rise in its most vulnerable population since the COVID-19 pandemic took effect in March 2020.
The grant is set to pay for the Homelessness Services Association of BC to educate up to 50 city staff members about how to respond to the needs of the homeless.
This includes all bylaw enforcement employees and some in parks, public works and police departments, and the $24,800 program is 12 hours of online classes.
In the city's original bid, the majority of the funds will be earmarked for non-profits already with boots on the ground:
- $201,271 to add two outreach workers and a mental health worker for the Phoenix Society
- $70,010 to expand the Hope for Freedom homeless outreach team from two to three workers
According to a report by Jim McIntyre, Coquitlam’s general manager of planning and development, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a financial strain on many residents and has impacted government and non-profit services:
- RainCity homeless shelter at 3030 Gordon Ave. cut the number of shelter beds available
- The cold/wet weather mat program was cancelled during the winter months
- “Wrap-around” services to help homeless people were impacted because of shift in provincial health resources
“As a result, [bylaw] enforcement staff have fewer meaningful options to offer the local homeless population, and encampment-related issues are becoming more difficult to address,” McIntyre wrote in his report, dated April 6.
The UBCM grant funding is expected to last until July 2022 for Coquitlam, along with any parallel provincial efforts.
- with files from Janis Cleugh, Tri-City News