With federal funding from the Homelessness Partnership Strategy (HPS) due to run out at the end of March, city council met on Feb. 18 to discuss landing a one year funding extension of $1,145,590 for homelessness initiatives.
The federal government is currently reviewing and reinventing the HPS to create a new program known as Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy.
“They’ve let us know that during the interim, while figuring the next steps, they want the city to continue in (its) role as a community entity for one year and will (provide) $1.1 million which the Community Advisory Board on Homelessness (CAB) distributes,” said Bassi-Kellet
Bassi-Kellet said from an operations point of view they would like to have long term certainty sooner rather than later, but city administration would recommend trying to obtain the extension.
The federal government solicited the city to reapply for funding on Jan. 24, the deadline for applying was Feb. 1. One week notice was not enough for the city, so the federal government has allowed a deadline extension.
Now, city administration is working to have the application completed and submitted as fast as they can, said Bassi-Kellet.
“We are currently working on the application,” Grant White, director of Community Services said. “This is with the assumption that we will be given direction to continue so that when we get approval, everything is already set in place.”
The funding would be used to continue the city’s current work with programs such as Housing First for adults, Prevention/Rapid Re-housing and Housing First for Families and Hopes Haven.
With a proposed increase of roughly 60 per cent, city administration pointed out that it will be crucial for CAB to develop a plan to spend this money. Coun. Niels Konge asked if there would be any concerns spending the money in it’s entirety.
“CAB members work very closely and very consciously to make sure every penny is used, it would send a bad message if it was not,” said Bassi-Kellet.
Mayor Rebecca Alty pointed out that funding overseen by the CAB has always been spent in it’s entirety.
“Our service providers are keen on service continuity in programs like Housing First, Rapid Re-housing,” said White. “They’re anticipating expanding their programs and have more intake of families, youth and adults.”
He also mentioned there will be more training opportunities with the NGOs, which have always been well received.
With their previous meeting cancelled, CAB will be meeting at a yet undetermined time, likely later this week, where members would bring forward ideas about how the new funding would be spent. In their following meeting, which is to take place in early March, CAB will make official recommendations for council.
Although the city is working on the application under the assumption it will receive funding, service providers do face a risk of laying off staff should the funding not come through.
Services providers have been in communication with city staff and will have to provide notices of layoffs at the beginning of March.
“In our discussions with federal government representatives last week about this issue (layoffs), they were very vague and cautioned us not to enter contract extensions without final approval,” said White.
“When I pushed them again mentioning a lot was at stake, they were unable to comment on whether they would have all this done by March 31st.”
CAB itself would also dissolve should funding not be renewed either this year, or at the end of the proposed funding in 2020.
Mayor Alty said they will be working closely with administration to expedite the process in order to avoid layoffs.