Despite tough year, United Way optimistic for the future

By Spencer Sterritt
September 20, 2018 - 6:25pm Updated: October 11, 2018 - 12:29pm

Every year, United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island kicks off their fundraising campaign with a breakfast.submitted/UWCNVI

NANAIMO — The United Way says they're ahead of the curve and ready to face what could be a tough year of increasing housing and homeless challenges.

United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island kicked off their annual fundraising campaign in Nanaimo on Thursday, at a breakfast where front line workers met with a broad group of Nanaimo residents concerned about the many dire straits people find themselves in.

United Way executive director Signy Madden told NanaimoNewsNOW there are significant challenges looming on the horizon but everyone is ready and on the same page.

“We've tested and tried things, gotten some of the most chronic homeless off the street and into market-rental housing projects, so we're ahead of the curve of many municipalities,” she said.

With an action plan to end homelessness recently endorsed by Nanaimo city council, Madden said there's a clear way forward for the many people suffering from homelessness and the service providers trying to help.

“We wish we could have done more in the last couple years for getting modular housing or more shelters, but at least we've got a plan now,” she said. “I heard someone say they hadn't seen this level of alignment in their lifetime around creating a poverty reduction strategy and putting significant funds into addressing child care and affordable housing.”

Madden said one of their major tasks is combatting sentiments of Not In My Backyard, otherwise known as NIMBY-ism.

“I often hear people say 'I support homeless services and shelters, but not in this location.' That's going to be the big challenge. We're not going to make everyone happy to address this issue. We have to find locations throughout the City and stand together to support our citizens and the people who need our help.”

Not every program the United Way is involved in combats housing or homelessness. Some of the nearly 50 initiatives they run help youth foster positive relationships, or connect seniors with friends and families to ward off loneliness.

Earlier this year, they secured another decade of federal funding to tackle the many issues which will arise in the region.


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