A homeless man (Malcolm Garret, pexels.com)
The BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus is calling on the province to take immediate action on housing for people with complex needs, including those with mental health and addiction challenges.
The Caucus is a non-partisan group made up of the mayors of 13 cities, including Nanaimo, which represent over 55-percent of the province’s population. Other Island mayors are those of Victoria and Saanich.
Complex care housing solutions support vulnerable persons within the community who often do not fit in the current supportive housing models.
The caucus defines complex needs as having “overlapping mental health, substance use, trauma and acquired brain injuries.” They say those people are often left to experience homelessness.
Caucus co-chair and Kelowna Mayor, Colin Basran says those vulnerable persons are falling through the cracks, and that municipalities have tried to support them, but are now needing the province’s help to take further steps.
“Together each of our communities are on the frontlines experiencing the same impact of gaps in the health, housing and justice system,” Basran says. “Municipalities have invested in supportive housing, funded more police and bylaw officers and created policies to increase inclusion in our communities and yet more needs to be done and for that we need the Province’s support.”
The Mayors have been in conversations with the Ministries of Mental Health and Addiction, Health, Housing, Municipal Affairs, Social Development and Poverty Reduction, and Justice, in the hopes of finding appropriate housing and supports for people with complex needs. The mayors have been advocating to shorten the timeframe for those supports to be operational to a matter of months, not years.
Caucus Co-Chair and Victoria Mayor, Lisa Helps says that they can’t stress enough how urgently their communities need this complex care in place
“We know the Province is acting on a complex care housing framework, and we appreciate that we were invited to participate in the early formative conversations as the Province developed the model of care,” says Helps. “We are hopeful that the provincial government will make an announcement soon.”
The BC Chamber of Commerce and the Business Improvement Areas of BC (BIABC) each chimed in to echo the mayoral call for complex care housing.
“Access to housing is critical for the health of our communities,” says Fiona Famulak, President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce. “Part of the solution is more complex care options for those who require extra support. As a result of the pandemic, the need for more complex care options is greater than ever before. Cutting red tape to develop tailored housing options with urgency, is therefore critical.”
Businesses have been particularly hit by the increase of those experiencing homelessness from what the Caucus is referring to as increased erratic behaviour, open drug use, crime, and theft occurring outside their place of business.
President of BIABC, Teri Smith says, “Increasing homelessness, street disorder, property crime, violence, mental health and addiction-related issues have reached a critical point in our downtowns, main streets and commercial districts. We all need to work together to protect our communities and those most vulnerable.”