In August 2021, the Town of Gibsons announced that it had been approved for a grant of $190,000 under the Strengthening Communities’ Services Program. The Everybody Needs a Home project is funded by that grant and has three parts: a destigmatization program, an outreach program and support for the winter shelter. Silas White from Impact Resolutions has been hired for the role of Homelessness Coordinator.
Project Update – Q1/Q2 2022
Under the UBCM Strengthening Communities’ Services Program, Gibsons is eligible for an additional $50,000 in funding for 2022 to continue advancing the goals of the Everybody Needs A Home Project. At the April 19, 2022, Council meeting, Council passed a resolution indicating support for the proposed activities of the Strengthening Communities’ Services Grant application, which was to be submitted by April 22, 2022.
Project Update – Q4 2021
Homelessness services have unquestionably hit an all-time high in Gibsons over the past month.
1. Use of the Salvation Army shelter rose to a high of 14 individuals one night during the holiday snow and freezing temperatures. Most nights have had 8–10 people. Shortly before this cold snap, Everybody Needs a Home Gibsons advocated to the provincial government via BC Housing and our MLA, Nicholas Simons, to extend shelter capacity and hours Coast-wide. Housing Minister David Eby responded with an announcement of financial support for increased capacity and increased hours straight through to mid-January. Consequently, the 24/7 Rain City Shelter in Sechelt opened up a couple more beds, and even at times allowed 2-3 more clients in during the worst of the cold weather, beyond their usual restricted maximum of 12. In Gibsons, the Town’s Everybody Needs a Home program was instrumental in ensuring no one was turned away during the freezing weather, and the shelter staff did tremendous work to accommodate the extra people over hours that were extended from 7am to 12pm. Much thanks to MLA Simons for his great work to get our concerns heard and rapidly addressed.
Through Everybody Needs a Home Gibsons, the Town of Gibsons opened up the warming centre at the Marine Room under the Arts Building every day for two weeks from December 24 to January 7, with great assistance from community volunteers and donations. Elected officials Bill Beamish, David Croal, Lori Pratt and Donna McMahon, and Town/non-profit staff members Tamara Jaswal, Kelly Foley and Colin Stansfield all provided instrumental assistance. So did the St. Bart’s Food Bank. The Town’s program also provided rides over this period for homeless individuals and supportive housing residents needing to get back and forth from Gibsons to Planning and Development Services – 2021-Q4 Report 4 Sechelt for shelter and medical attention.
2. The outreach program over the past month essentially transformed into the warming centre, to get people to come to us for warmth and food in the cold weather. One client in the Town chose to stay outside, so Everybody Needs a Home regularly checked on him to ensure he had sufficient blankets and food at his tent (and coffee). On January 7, we hosted a ground-breaking visit from the mental health team at Vancouver Coastal Health. Until about a week ago, the structure of VCH required mental health clients to come to Sechelt to seek help—but due to a departmental reorganization, we’ve had no less than four mental health professionals perform outreach visits to our programs and clients over the past two weeks. This reorganization has been mutually beneficial, as the warming centre and shelter have also directly accommodated a homeless VCH client released from hospital, whereas in the past he likely would’ve been released from care with nowhere to go. This promising change at VCH is also allowing us to engage and collaborate with VCH personnel on longer-term housing solutions for our shared clients.
Also very notably, the Town of Gibsons has formed a partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association to hire and fund a new outreach worker for the remaining duration of the Everybody Needs a Home program (to mid-August). Chantelle Burke, a long-time Gibsons resident who works in the shelter and is pursuing her diploma in professional counselling, started this position on December 10.
3. Deer Crossing the Art Farm is taking on the destigmatization program by engaging people with lived experience with homelessness in storytelling and artistic expression, to build improved understanding and resilience in the community around the background, challenges and faces of homelessness. The Art Farm Outreach Coordinator and Community Engagement Coordinator met with the Salvation Army manager and visited the Hope Cafe (food bank services) to evaluate whether this was an effective way to recruit participants for the project. It became evident that this was not an effective approach and understandably, the Salvation Army is discouraging gatherings at the Hope Cafe because of concerns around COVID. The Art Farm re-evaluated their strategy and decided to work with local service providers and community hubs (food banks, shelters, outreach workers, shelters, laundromats, libraries, etc.) and request that they refer people who would be interested in participating in the project. Postcards and posters were designed, printed and distributed to local community hubs and service providers inviting people who have experienced homelessness or are at risk of homelessness to attend a series of creative workshops.
The plan was to have the first creative workshop on January 22nd at one of the vacant commercial spaces at Sunnycrest Mall. Unfortunately, the first workshop had to be postponed until public health restrictions are relaxed. We anticipate this happening in early February. In the meantime, the Art Farm is working on creating a public engagement art installation at Sunnycrest Mall around the theme of homelessness. The Art Farm is also developing a social media campaign focused on building empathy and destigmatizing people who are homeless. They are also working on an “Emergency Housing and Support Services” web page that will provide information and resources. The Art Farm recently received funding to creatively engage with students from the alternative schools on the Sunshine Coast. The Art Farm will utilize this opportunity to bring these students into the project by exploring themes about homelessness.
Project Update – Q3 2021
1. Deer Crossing the Art Farm is taking on the destigmatization program by engaging people with lived experience with homelessness in storytelling and artistic expression, to build improved understanding and resilience in the community around the background, challenges and faces of homelessness. The Art Farm has started in the past couple weeks by assigning their own Outreach Coordinator to the project, conducting a few planning meetings, and working out a plan with the Salvation Army to attend the Hope Café (food bank service) on a weekly basis to connect with participants. The Art Farm is building on their success with sharing the experiences of people living with dementia via the well-known Raising the Curtain project.
2. The support for the winter shelter has been highly successful in ensuring a greatly needed early opening this year on November 2. (It would be more desirable to get it open even earlier, before the Sunshine Coast “wet season” starts, but at least it was earlier than when other “winter shelters” typically open in BC.)
3. The outreach aspect of this program has been the busiest so far, offering support to 17 individuals since early September who have been living “rough” in the Town, usually camping, sometimes in vehicles. Support has included providing tents and sleeping bags, connecting to health services, delivering food, providing garbage bags and helping clean up, laundry service, storage, providing books, relocating to other sites (this included moving several people from behind the curling rink in September), collaborating with Town Bylaw Enforcement, various departments of Vancouver Coastal Health, the RCMP, BC Housing, Canadian Mental Health Association, Community Resource Centre and RainCity; liaising with neighbours and responding to community concerns.
Community homelessness concerns brought to the Town are now referred to Everybody Needs a Home Gibsons. Responding to the pandemic was the primary reason for the federal/provincial Strengthening Communities’ Services funding, and therefore helping to arrange three visits from Vancouver Coastal health to conduct COVID-19 testing and vaccinations at 749 School Road, and also working to assist unsheltered homeless individuals to get vaccinated, have also been major outreach efforts. Some further outreach projects will be to identify and inventory lower-cost rentals in the Town, identify people at risk of homelessness in the coming year, and work with Vancouver Coastal Health on improving “wraparound” supports.
In August 2021, the Town of Gibsons announced that it had been approved for a grant of $190,000 under the Strengthening Communities’ Services Program.
The funding will be used to advance several initiatives aimed at supporting the most vulnerable members of our community, including contracting a temporary community-homelessness coordinator to organize and confirm multi-year commitments on location, funding and operator for a Gibsons cold weather shelter.
The Sunshine Coast Salvation Army, located at #5 – 682 Gibsons Way, agreed to work with the Town and Sunshine Coast Homelessness Advisory Committee to host the shelter and the outreach position. Much of the funding will go towards “immediate, tangible” capital improvements to the Salvation Army kitchen (which serves both the winter shelter and year round food bank) and the winter shelter facility itself.
Many local organizations, including the Sunshine Coast Foundation, Sunshine Coast Salvation Army, Sunshine Coast Homelessness Advisory Committee, and Deer Crossing the Art Farm supported the grant application and will contribute their expertise to the resulting initiatives.