The City of Nanaimo is offering up a new piece of land to accommodate a “rapid response” to homelessness.
Mayor Bill McKay said Nanaimo city council will meet in camera tomorrow, Oct. 3, when staff is expected to provide an update on communications with B.C. Housing and present options to councillors.
He said council has decided on a single site that could be provided to B.C. Housing, one that “hadn’t been considered before” and would be suitable for the province to look at “rapid response” options.
“We don’t know what that looks like, whether it’s trailers or a pop-up sprung tent or a modular housing unit. That’s up to them. They consider all of those options to be rapid response,” the mayor said.
McKay said some of the recent efforts stemmed from a conversation he had with Selina Robinson, the B.C. Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, who “made it very clear” that the province was waiting for the city to provide land.
The mayor said he doesn’t think that the City of Nanaimo would have any role in public consultation around approving a new site.
“The city’s role in this is to provide a piece of land. It will be a B.C. Housing initiative and how they handle the public engagement would be up to them,” he said.
McKay said he expects an interim housing solution would be able to accommodate a set number of people and comings and goings would be managed.
“Some folks are going to choose not to go there, it’s as simple as that,” the mayor said. “There will be management, but there will also be resources.”
Following a B.C. Supreme Court injunction against Discontent City and the impending dismantling of the homeless camp at 1 Port Drive, the mayor said “there’s no owner’s manual” to refer to and said the municipality relies on good information from other entities such as service providers. He suggested Nanaimo residents are divided on how the city should respond to homelessness, what segments of the tent city residents need assistance and what that help would look like.
“It’s really difficult to balance all of those things understanding that it’s the taxpayer that’s going to shoulder the cost of this, and we just need to continue to make our best efforts to do what everyone believes is right,” McKay said.
The city’s social planner John Horn said last week that options being considered to house tent city residents would create controversy and friction.
United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island is hosting an all-candidates’ meeting centred on affordable housing and homelessness on Thursday, Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Beban Park social centre. There was also discussion about tent city at a candidates’ town hall on Monday in north Nanaimo.
According to a B.C. Housing press release, the province’s rapid response to homelessness program includes $291 million over two years to build 2,000 units of modular supportive housing, and more than $170 million over three years for related staffing and support services.