The Nanaimo and Duncan communities are receiving further financial support
during the COVID-19 pandemic through the Federal Reaching Home initiative.
Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy helps service agencies that work with
populations experiencing homelessness. Funding is coming to United Way Central & Northern
Vancouver Island (UWCNVI), the Community Entity that invests funds through Community
Advisory Boards for the region.

On March 18th, as part of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, the Federal
Government announced an additional $157.7 million for the Reaching Home: Canada’s
Homelessness Strategy, to support local agencies for a range of needs such as purchasing
beds and physical barriers for social distancing and securing accommodation to reduce
overcrowding in shelters during COVID-19. A total of $600,000 will be distributed to Nanaimo
and Duncan service agencies who prevent and reduce homelessness through the Designated
Communities funding stream and the Indigenous Homelessness funding stream.

“The COVID-19 virus has increased the pressure even further on our already overworked local
service providers. Those organizations offering support and shelter to residents facing
homelessness have had to take extra precautions given that many of their clients are
immunocompromised and at increased risk of contracting and spreading the virus,” says Julie
Rushton, Manager Grant Investments, United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island. “This
additional funding will help them continue to support our underserved populations. We are
grateful that the Federal Government recognized the urgent need in our community and acted
quickly to help the most vulnerable in the community.”

Nanaimo is set to receive $200,000 in Indigenous funding and $200,000 in Designated funding.
Duncan will also see $200,000 in Indigenous funding.

UWCNVI is working closely with the local municipalities, BC Housing, Island Health, Nanaimo
Homeless Coalition members, local service providers, Indigenous Band Councils and leaders to
best determine where the federal funding should go to have the most impact.

Local Community Advisory Boards (CAB) decide how and where this funding is spent to make
the biggest impact possible in our region. In Nanaimo, the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition determines which agencies should receive the funding. In Duncan, the Tze Tza Watul Community Advisory Board decide on where the funding is distributed.

“These additional funds support our tireless Indigenous service providers who deliver the
necessary basic needs to our less-served homeless population. By continuing to offer these
services, we can stay connected and play an active role in monitoring their health and safety
and move to an isolation plan if needed,” says Debbie Williams, Executive Director, House of
Friendship. “We are all responsible for our fellow community members no matter where they
live, these funds help us fulfil our societal duties. Together, with a collective eye, our local CABS
work to ensure all service and support gaps are diminished.”

UWCNVI has been the Community Entity for the Reaching Home initiative for more than five
years. They are the liaison for Federal Government funding and invest in, with the
recommendations from local CABs, local organizations who help to end homelessness in
Nanaimo and Duncan.

The initial data from the March 12, 2020, Point-in-Time Count suggests that homelessness in
Nanaimo is at its highest, with at least 425 people living unsheltered. The results from the 2016
count showed 174 people facing homelessness in Nanaimo; that number almost doubled to 335
people in 2018. These increased numbers highlight the need for further investments and
resources in our community, especially during an outbreak. Full release here. This count was
funded by the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy.

The Cowichan Point-in-Time Count was held March 12, 2020. Count results from all
provincially-funded counts will be released in June.

Nicole Benson,

Director of Communications, United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island