NANAIMO — City staff are exploring options beyond simply a drop-in centre to give the homeless a place to go during the day.
Social Planner John Horn told NanaimoNewsNOW the City is working toward including a health and wellness component as part of a drop-in centre. He said a theme evolved in recent weeks to provide a service that better meets the needs of the homeless, service providers and the area where the centre would be located.
“The shift in the understanding of what it looks like and why we need to do this is really based on our partners saying 'Here's what we as service providers would want to deliver into the community...We want a wellness centre and not just a drop-in centre.'”
City Council approved $100,000 in March to help launch the centre, as part of sweeping measures designed to deal with the City's homeless and downtown social disorder issues.
A site has not yet been identified.
Horn said his initial hope was to have a service established by this summer but he said that already ambitious goal is now “a monumental task.”
He said talks with interested service providers are ongoing.
“Once we conclude those discussions and know what kind of shape and size this should be we can be more clear with our ask with provincial partners.”
Horn estimated it would take three-to-four full-time staff members to run an effective health and wellness centre. The City earlier estimated a homeless drop-in centre would cost $250,000 per year to run.
Horn said the City has to be thoughtful in how a frontline service for the homeless is established to properly serve clients, staff and the surrounding community.
“Everyone has to feel like this is a place that's well-managed, orderly and safe, that allows them to come and address their wellness needs and not just be in self-defence mode.”
Coun. Bill Yoachim said he likes the health and wellness idea, but he'd rather see the drop-in centre opened in short order.
“The wellness centre concept sounds like a great initiative, but if it's going to delay or take longer than expected I would hope at bare minimum we can get the drop-in centre rolling.”
Yoachim said he favours setting up the health and wellness service after the drop-in centre is established to fill an immediate need.
In March, Council approved $350,000 in initiatives in response to downtown social disorder issues. That funding commitment included the funding for the drop-in cenrte, which was projected to be open seven-days-a-week for eight-hours a day.
On Twitter: @reporterholmes
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