The Everybody Needs a Home Gibsons project was approved by the Strengthening Communities’ Services funding program, administered by UBCM, in mid-August 2021. It has three parts to it: a destigmatization program, an outreach program and support for the winter shelter.
On November 18, 2021, the following update was provided to Council by consultant Silas White, Homelessness Coordinator, Impact Resolutions.
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.