The City of Quesnel is receiving provincial funding to examine and support homelessness.
B.C.’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs recently announced funding of $317,651 for the project—‘Strengthening Quesnel’s Homelessness Services.’
Tanya Turner, the city’s director of development services, said the money will be used to hire a social community coordinator.
“They’re going to to work to really understand the homelessness issue in the community and make sure that we can respond with appropriate support or obtain the resources that we need that are necessary,” she said.
“It’s not going to resolve the overall problem, but it’s going to give us a much better handle on what is needed in the future.”
The underlying causes of homelessness were made worse by COVID-19, such as poverty, mental illness and addiction.
In March 2020, Quesnel was one of 16 communities across the province to conduct a one-day homeless count. Of the 121 individuals identified, a total of 60 per cent were living unsheltered.
“One of the things that we’re recognizing is there seems to be growing a vulnerable population and with different kinds of precarious housing situations,” Turner said, noting the coordinator will be able to further identify Quesnel’s overall homeless population and necessary resources.
“We need more understanding about how do we support individuals that are unsheltered and get a real understanding of where are those individuals, where are they sleeping, how do we we interact with them and how do we get them the supports that put them in a better situation.”
Part of the project also includes de-escalation training for staff including bylaw officers to improve the quality of high-stress interactions that Turner said was completed earlier this year.
Turner said the city would be exploring potential locker units for vulnerable populations to temporarily store their possessions and a day program that will identify tasks and easy jobs such as snow clearing for pay.
Public education raising awareness and reducing stigma will also be a vital component of the project.
“We really do want to get a handle on this and try and provide the appropriate supports to address this,” Turner said, noting the concerns shared by the public and business community on impacts they believe are a result of increasing vulnerable populations and homelessness in Quesnel.
The city has already posted the job online searching for applicants.
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