British Columbia

Future of B.C. warming centre unclear as funding runs out

A warming centre in Nanaimo, B.C., has had to close after the organization running the centre ran out of funding, but advocates remain committed to finding the money to keep it afloat.

Risebridge asked city for $30K in emergency funding, but must go through weeks-long process for approval

A warming centre in Nanaimo, B.C., that has served up to 100 people a day since mid-December has had to close after running out of funding. (Risebridge/Facebook)

A warming centre in Nanaimo, B.C., has had to close after the organization running the centre ran out of funding, but advocates remain committed to finding the money to keep it afloat.

Risebridge, a non-profit organization that advocates for BIPOC people and other marginalized groups, launched the warming centre in December and has served nearly 100 people a day since it opened. 

The centre was created for people to get warm and dry during the cold, wet winter months. But it also provided harm reduction services, first aid, and connected people with other outreach services.

"It wasn't just a shelter to provide warmth and keep people out of the cold," Risebridge executive director Jovan Johnson told All Points West host Robyn Burns. 

The centre operated using funding from the United Way but has also relied on donations from the public. 

In December, Johnson wrote a letter to the city asking for another $30,000 in funding to keep it open through the winter. After not hearing back for several weeks, Johnson asked to address council but was invited instead to a finance committee meeting. 

Johnson said she will meet with city managers to put together a report for the Feb. 7 meeting of council and may also appear at the finance committee meeting on Feb. 16. 

"But even with that, that means we would have no answer of city support financially for another four weeks here," Johnson said.

"It just wasn't possible for us to keep up what we were doing, what we were offering, especially with the expectations behind us of building owners and businesses and community around security and staffing and the implementation of COVID protocols."

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said the city doesn't grant funding to any organization, for any purpose, without a staff report and a review of that report.

"These are, after all, monies we hold in trust for the taxpayers," he said. 

Krog noted there are other organizations providing services to homeless and marginalized people in Nanaimo. 

"It's not as if the people are being forgotten." 

Johnson said Risebridge's request for funding doesn't have to go to their organization — instead, they would be happy to see more funding go to any organization that can offer services and help those in need. 

"Our push is for them to just do something," Johnson said. 

In the meantime, she's looking into federal and provincial funding options, including those available through the local health authority. She says her staff also continues to provide what services it can for those in need. 

"The fight isn't over, that's for sure." 

With files from Adam van der Zwan and All Points West

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