City to administer homelessness funding

Dr. Terry Kading engages his audience at the International Research Institute’s Language, Culture and Community Conference July 7. His presentation, Promoting ‘Community Leadership and Learning’ on Social Challenges in the Small City: An Assessment of Canadian Government Homelessness Initiatives examined the role of community and government in administering funding. -PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIES

Samantha Garvey and Mike Davies, Contributor and Editor-in-Chief  Ω

Less time spent on government approval is the reason cited for the change in who will administer $1 million in funding towards ending homelessness.  At the Tournament Capital Centre on June 28, MP Cathy McLeod announced that the city will take over the job of administering funds towards homelessness-related projects.

The Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) is the program through which the federal government will make these investments. It has existed for 12 years and runs on three-year cycles. Previous to the announcement, the HPS was working under a Shared Delivery system, in which the federal government would administer the funding towards local projects. Now the program will be a Community Entity, controlled by the City of Kamloops.

The Kamloops Working Group on Homelessness (KWGH) is made up of 19 people representing organizations that reflect different demographics of the homeless or people at risk of homelessness. The KWGH calls for, reviews and approves project proposals for funding. The group also gives feedback and recommendations.

The amount of money received through the program will still be a responsibility of the Government of Canada.

According to Louise Richards, chair of the KWGH, $1 million is on par with funding from previous cycles.
“[Funding] has been invested in some good projects and has made positive change,” Richards said.
She said the Indian Interior Friendship Society is a good example of positive results through HPS. The long-standing program has received funding for more than one cycle and employs staff who help people find housing in the community and also provide life-skills training.

In addition to the Interior Indian Friendship Society, the federal government has six other contracts with organizations in Kamloops: Canadian Mental Health, Kamloops & District Seniors Outreach, Interior Community Services, Door-to-Roof Society, New Life Mission and the White Buffalo Aboriginal Health Society and Resource Centre

“I don’t think it’s ever enough funding,” said Chris Rose, member of the KWGH representing St. Paul’s Cathedral.

“Until we can get enough shelter to cope with the population, it certainly is not enough. We don’t have enough beds — long-term beds [to provide] on a regular basis.”

Jennifer Casorso, City of Kamloops Recreation Supervisor, said fewer layers of government approval will make getting projects approved and implemented a more efficient process.

“In the past, agreements had to go to Ottawa for approval. There was significant lag in getting responses back to the community,” she said.

Another benefit is close communication between the source of funding and those receiving it.
According to TRU political science professor Terry Kading, there are advantages to this system of delivery, however he feels it works better in larger centres where they have “established social planning and housing divisions.”

“There has definitely been a problem with smaller cities and towns being able build the capacity and resources necessary to play a leadership role on homelessness and access funds,” he said, but pointed out that Kamloops seems to be moving in the right direction, and this announcement should help, but adds that much depends on various governments’ commitment to funding going forward.

“I recognize the advantages, such as creating programs and housing appropriate for the particular needs of the local homeless population, and supporting gaps in available programs and housing in order to maximize the benefits of federal and local spending,” he said.

“The problem that has emerged with this model is that it is not clear that the partners — the federal and provincial governments — share the same goals as the local level to end homelessness due to the potential costs involved — an issue that needs to be addressed when existing provincial and federal funding programs are renewed in some form in 2014,” he said.

He is hopeful that it will continue to progress.

“It is a slow process, but compared to where Kamloops was at six years ago, there has been a big change, and the expectation is that in the near future there will be affordable and appropriate housing being constructed to address these needs.”

Richards agrees, saying that progress continues to be made, and that now the community can “take more ownership of how things go [and] shorten up response times for inquiries.”

However, she also said that from the perspective of the homeless in Kamloops, the change “won’t be very apparent to them.”