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Homelessness board seeks more members as part of $6-million federal funding partnership

1212council41.jpg Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo City council passed unanimously the budget for 2019 during a regular meeting. Monday night. The budget includes a 1.44 property tax increase after Coun. Niels Konge introduced a last-minute eight-point amendment to further reduce costs. Once the budget was whittled down to zero per cent, he proposed to increase the figure up to 1.44 per cent - an equivalent of $447,000 of tax revenue - to put in the capital fund. Dec. 11, 2018

The City of Yellowknife passed a proposal from staff during Monday night's regular council meeting intended to diversify and broaden representation on the community advisory board on homelessness (CAB).  

City council, in full attendance, came together for their February 18, 2019 governance and priorities committee meeting. Council discussed perusing $1.1 million in federal funding for programs that combat homelessness in Yellowknife.
Yellowknife city council has approved increasing the membership of the Community Advisory Board on Homelessness as part of a funding arrangement with the federal Reaching Home Initiative. 
NNSL file photo

CAB serves as an advisory group for council on issues involving homelessness. 

Representatives will now include two people who have lived experience with homelessness, a person from the public at large, a representative from the RCMP, a veteran and another member who is a landlord or representative of a non-government housing sector. A second representative from an Indigenous organization will also be added. 

The increased membership proposal will bring the board membership to 16 from nine.

Council also supported an amendment from Coun. Robin Williams to add a member from the business community to the board. City staff indicated that there have been challenges in the past with maintaining a business representative on the board. 

"I would think that especially when it comes to homelessness, downtown is one of those things that's affected and downtown is the home of many of our businesses and our business community," Williams said, noting chambers of commerce would be an example of voices who could provide important input.

In April 2019, the city entered into a funding agreement with the federal government's Reaching Home Initiative: Canada's Homelessness Strategy that will provide the city with $6 million until March 31, 2024. The funding provides the city a little more than $1 million every year to disburse to various city programs that seek to alleviate homelessness.

The bulk of money will go to the city's Housing First program, which is a contracted service for local non-government organizations to provide housing for adults, families and youth, Mayor Rebecca Alty said this week.

Part of the requirements in the federal and municipal agreement are that the city must designate specific types of representatives on the board, which councillors discussed during the Jan. 18 committee meeting. 

City Coun. Stacie Smith is the chair of the Community Advisory Board on Homelessness. She says that adjusting the board's terms of reference to allow for people with lived experience with homelessness to be represented on the board will lead to more effective decision-making.
NNSL file photo

Call for applications

"We will be now be doing a call for applications this week and we will have to aim to fill all these new positions as well as vacancies that we already have," Mayor Rebecca Alty said.

The increased membership, beyond the requirements from the federal government, will help ensure that there are diverse voices involved in homelessness discussions, she said. This will aid in targetting funds properly to areas of homelessness where it's needed most, Alty added.

The increased membership is also aimed at solving "direct or perceived conflict of interest" issues between organizations.

"It is a committee that needs to be balanced because you want people on the ground with the local knowledge to be part of CAB for their wisdom but we need to be aware and balance that," Alty said.  "Sometimes they are also the same organizations that are applying for the (Reaching Home Initiative) funding."

Some councillors noted the importance of having people with lived experience on the board.

"I'm really happy with what has come forward," said board chair Stacie Smith, who said more input from Indigenous organizations is also a benefit. "Having added all of these other positions that are a little bit more specific to the the sectors that they're going to represent, I think will allow us to be a little bit more efficient in how we're going to dole out funding and make decisions."