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Grants launch area projects

Funds flow for homelessness strategy seniors history projects

City of Powell River Councillor Debbie Dee has spearheaded two successful grant applications that will help initiate community projects.

The city has received $47,000 from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy Program and $25,000 from Service Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program.

The funds from the homelessness partnering strategy program will be used to develop a comprehensive listing of community services and to create a strategic community plan.

The application was for $105,000, explained Dee. “We wanted to pilot an emergency shelter, design a registry for tracking homeless populations in the region, create a Powell River Housing Authority, develop a comprehensive listing of community services, programs and projects related to homelessness and create a strategic community plan for the housing authority.”

The agency thought the plan was a bit ambitious, said Dee, and provided funds for the listing of community services and a strategic community plan. The listing of community services will include what population is served by various organizations in the region.

The reason the city applied for the grant was to bring together organizations that were working on homelessness, but in isolation, Dee said. Groups are trying to meet the needs of people they serve, but what is needed is an overall plan, she said. “This is what the city should be doing, because these are our citizens,” she said. “I’m hoping it’s going to end up being a city initiative and this will be our strategic plan. We have a strategic plan for everything else, why not have a strategic plan for our most vulnerable citizens, the ones who don’t have anywhere to stay?”

Dee would like to see an affordable housing strategy emerge out of the homelessness strategic plan and then she would like to see the city establish an affordable housing authority. “I would like to see something like an affordable housing reserve fund,” she said.

For example, a city policy could require developers to assign 10 per cent of the units in a project to affordable housing, Dee said. If a developer didn’t want to set aside 10 per cent for affordable housing, then he or she could contribute to the reserve fund or create equivalent affordable housing somewhere else, she said.

The funds from the New Horizons for Seniors Program will be used for the Powell River Seniors History and Heritage Project, which aims to produce a series of books, said Dee. The idea is to connect youth and seniors in the community through the sharing of stories. “We’re going to use the youth as volunteer scribes,” Dee said. “They’re going to interview the seniors about their history, how they got to Powell River, how long have they been here, what was their life like.”

Dee said she envisions a series of three books, each with 12 chapters. Each senior who participates in the project would have one chapter. “It’s going to be a neat project,” she said. “I think it’s going to connect youth to a better history of Powell River. It’s also going to elevate the esteem of seniors in town, what they did matters.”

The seniors history project will run until the end of the year, Dee said, while the homelessness strategy project will wrap up by the end of March, with a report to city council.