After the loss of a federal grant of $85,000, Kitimat’s housing support services have a month to find a new funding source, or their doors will have to close on their roughly 230 clients.
After receiving an emergency grant of $6,000 from the District of Kitimat council, in order to cover costs for the month of April, Paul Lagace and Anne Moyls are trying to find a way to be able to help their clients find sustainable and affordable housing, an issue that is compacted by the town’s boom and bust economy.
The money, from the Rural and Remote Homelessness funding stream of Employment and Development Canada, is no longer given on a priority basis to non-designated communities with populations less than 25,000. This new criteria was brought in during the federal 2016 budget.
Lagace and Moyls work has been funded for four years through this stream, distributed through the Prince George Nechako Aboriginal Employment and Training Association in Prince George. According to Lagace, there were 70 applicants this year, with 14 awarded funding. He said Kitimat was number 15 on the list.
“If it was horseshoes or hand grenades, it would’ve counted for something,” he said.
Kitimat’s housing support services works both in homelessness prevention and establishing subsidies for clients, and housing advocacy, and what Lagace calls poverty law advocacy.
“So we do any dealings with the residential tenancy branch, we do a lot of advocacy stuff related to income assistance; I’d say a third of our work is related to that, maybe even two fifths.”
“You have people that work their whole life and now they’re 60 and trying to find work and they have to apply for income assistance for the first time, and it’s really overwhelming (for them),” he said.
If another source of funding isn’t found this month? “Technically, we close April 30,” said Lagace.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen when people have residential tenancy hearings and income assistance appeals, I don’t know who’s going to do those.”
Lagace said he’s sure someone will step up to fill the gaps created by the loss, but the need will still exist in the community.
“The people that will be stepping up to do that, I can tell you right now that they’re already doing everything off the side of their desk,” he said.
District of Kitimat council has requested updates on the situation from the Community Development Centre, and Lagace said they’ve reached out to MP Nathan Cullen as well.
“We’re trying to do a few things,” said Lagace. “We’ll see.”