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Groups ask City of Powell River to partner in supportive housing

Community engagement request made by Westview Ratepayers Society and Lift Community Services
ADDRESSING CONCERNS: Lift Community Services executive director Stuart Clark [left] and Westview Ratepayers Association president Rick Craig appeared before City of Powell River’s committee of the whole to request that the city be involved in community engagement regarding supportive housing.

City of Powell River staff will look into partnering with Westview Ratepayers Society and Lift Community Services regarding communications and information about supportive housing.

At the January 17 committee of the whole meeting, Rick Craig, president of the ratepayers society, said in November, a petition was presented to council with 465 signatures, and since that time, the society has been meeting with Lift about supportive housing. He said the issues the society asked council about in November had to do with community education around supportive housing, addressing concerns in the community and the possibility of an action plan to see what could be done together to make the circumstances the best they can be for Lift clients and residents of Powell River.

Lift executive director Stuart Clark said since November, the social service agency and government have been working hard to address the ever-increasing need created by the COVID-19 pandemic and other health emergencies.

“We recognize through this, with the help of Westview Ratepayers Society and other members of the community, that there is an equal and almost more powerful need to better explain and talk about these issues, and clarify with the community what we are doing, why we are doing it, who is involved and how it is going to help,” said Clark. “We’ve been working really hard, and with the support of our community partners, we’ve also been able to engage with Vancouver Coastal Health, BC Housing and the ministry of mental health and addictions, as they bring more resources to this community as well.

“We’ve got a lot of communications experts and plans aligned and I’m happy to say there is a lot of activity on bringing better information to the community about these programs, who is involved, and also what the outcomes are intended to be.”

Clark said the two big areas of focus are how to get that information out and how to best share it and frame it in ways that it is understandable to the public. The province is also involved and is a couple of weeks away from sending a strategy, he added.

“The second thing we need to do is address the thorny issues and the unintended consequences of these services in the community,” said Clark. “What we are looking for is the city to be more of a full partner in the community engagement process so we can begin reaching out to the public. We believe that will raise credibility and also allow us to coordinate our communications with the city.”

Formal request

Craig said they were formally requesting the city become involved in the process.

“We would like the city to ideally be a partner because the city has resources to help us get the word out to more people,” said Craig. “At the same time, the city should, we think, show it is fully invested in this and part of the community education process, and hopefully can let some of the resources of the city, the communications area, assist us to reach more people, to be more effective, and to come up with strategies we can all work together on implementing.”

Interim city chief administrative officer Chris Jackson said more detail was required so the city can understand what sort of resource commitment is required. He said once that information is available, he’d be looking to city council’s strategic planning session to identify what it is, strategically, the council’s priority or priorities for this term, and backing that up with budget requests.

“We do have resources, but the resources you have are already fully committed,” said Jackson. “The question would be: are you adding resources or are you stopping some services or tasks so we could reorient towards different ones? The first thing will be understanding what this ask is in terms of the details.”

Jackson said city councillors could instruct staff to work with Lift and Westview ratepayers to determine what those asks are, and then staff will bring something back to the committee.

Councillor George Doubt made a motion that staff discuss with the ratepayers and Lift the idea of working together on an organization that is suggested by the delegation.

“It’s always worthwhile to try to work together if we can,” said Doubt. “Supportive housing is a major issue in the community. It involves the health of our community and succeeding is important. We should have some input from staff about the possibilities of what could be done.

“It might not be expensive but it might require a lot of personal time.”

The motion carried unanimously.