British Columbia

Nanaimo council hopefuls to debate homeless issues at forum

City council candidates will face the public's questions on issues of homelessness and affordable housing on Thursday.

Forum is taking place 2 weeks after tent city ordered to shut down

A shot of the Discontent City homeless camp in Nanaimo as it appeared Sept. 21, when a court order was issued ordering residents to leave the area. (Liz McArthur/CBC)

Nanaimo City council candidates will face the public's questions on issues of homelessness and affordable housing on Thursday.

Invited candidates will have the opportunity to share how they plan to follow through on a city-approved action plan to end homelessness.

"In essence we're asking candidates: 'Are you ready to enact and go after provincial and federal funding and play your part on the ground to purchase land for affordable housing, do the zoning and deal with the NIMBYism,'" says Signy Madden, executive director for The United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island.

Strategies recommended for ending homelessness

The municipal action plan lays out 10 strategies to be carried out over a five year period — among them, the need for Nanaimo to take into account changes in the housing and labour markets, as well as social change and the increase of addictions and mental health issues in the city.

The plan also outlines strategies for tackling gaps in service identified by providers, which includes a lack of support for keeping people off the streets and improving the number of people graduating from supportive housing. 

Tent city ordered shut down

The forum on Thursday is being held nearly two weeks after the B.C. Supreme Court ordered the closure of the Discontent City camp at 1 Port Way. Tent city occupants have 10 days remaining in which to leave the site.

When it was first set up, about 300 people were estimated to live at the location, which has running water and portable toilets.

Protesters set up the camp to raise awareness about the lack of housing options for homeless people and to provide a place for them to live.

Madden believes their protest worked, as candidates have been coming to talk to her about how the issue can be addressed quickly.

"That's refreshing for those of us who really care about the folks and the funding solutions on the ground. The council we've had in the last number of years has not necessarily been on the same page or been able to act," Madden says in an interview with All Points West host Manusha Janakiram.

The forum is the public's first opportunity to grill the candidates and establish their positions on ending homelessness in Nanaimo.

Signy Madden with The United way says she's optimistic for positive change on the issue of affordable housing heading into the election, based on early conversations with candidates. 7:34

With files from All Points West

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