The province on Thursday announced $4.7 million for Victoria initiatives that aim to address homelessness, with one of the largest allocated amounts going towards bylaw and reimbursing the city for added police shifts.
A news release said Victoria will use the $4.7 million, from B.C.’s Strengthening Communities’ Services program, to “address the impacts of homelessness and keep communities safe.” Of that, $850,000 will go towards bylaw (for the work of five officers and one clerk) and police, city spokesperson Sheldon Johnson told Black Press Media in an email.
That figure was the highest of any recipient highlighted in the city’s release.
Bowen Osoko, a VicPD spokesperson, said the funds pertain to the additional deployment of four officers four nights a week from May 1 to Sept. 30. “The funds for VicPD reimburses the City of Victoria for funding already provided for special duty shifts for four officers,” VicPD Chief Del Manak said.
A $350,000-program will allow the Canadian Mental Health Association to pilot a Peer Assisted Crisis Team, which the city said will be an alternative to police responding to mental health-related 911 or crisis calls.
A $600,000-partnership with the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness will hire and train peer-support workers to help transition unsheltered people indoors. Another partnership with the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness will use $550,000 to have medical and youth outreach workers focus on the specific needs of unsheltered Indigenous people.
The funds will see the Burnside Gorge Neighbourhood Association develop three small-scale pilot projects that aim to build relationships between housed and unhoused residents, along with increasing neighbourhood health and safety, the release said.
The city, which had to apply for the grants, noted this is not a complete list of funded projects.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said the funds will provide support for vulnerable residents and create a more resilient community.
“Together with the province’s support, we’re building an inclusive community where everyone has access to the housing and supports they need,” she said.
Other Capital Regional District beneficiaries included $413,000 for the Sooke Homelessness Coordination Project and $308,000 to the Salt Spring Island Homelessness COVID Response.
Josie Osborne, municipal affairs minister, said vital services have been strained by the pandemic, and the grants will help communities continue providing critical services.
The $100-million Strengthening Communities’ Services program is a part of the $540 million Safe Restart Fund – where costs are shared evenly by the federal and B.C. governments.