Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. (Black Press file photos)

Kelowna, Victoria mayors call on B.C. to create housing pilot for homeless with complex needs

The co-chairs of the B.C. Urban Mayors’ Caucus want to work with the B.C. government to develop a five-site pilot project

The cities of Kelowna and Victoria are both facing the same two crises – homelessness and opioid addiction.

In an attempt to strengthen supports for mental health and substance use, mayors from both cities met with attorney general and housing minister David Eby and mental health minister Sheila Malcolmson this week.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps co-chair the B.C. Urban Mayors’ Caucus and hope for a plan to accelerate the province’s response to addressing mental health, substance use and homelessness.

“We are seeing historic investments from the province to build more affordable housing, which is serving the needs of many people in our communities. Yet … people with complex needs are falling through the cracks and aren’t being served by the supportive housing models and programs currently available,” said Helps.

READ MORE: B.C. mayors call on all parties to commit to ‘new fiscal relationship’ with province

In an effort to strengthen supportive housing models in the community, the B.C. Urban Mayors’ Caucus wants to work with Eby, Malcolmson and the provincial government to develop a five-site pilot project for 40- to 50-unit complex care housing facilities within a year: on the Island, in the North, the Interior and two in the Lower Mainland.

Both Basran and Helps expressed concern over the challenges in their communities and the lack of solutions, stating the most vulnerable residents are at risk without proper health supports to meet their needs.

“Our residents and business owners are frustrated. And economic recovery from the pandemic will be compromised without action now. It’s time to try new approaches,” said Basran.

READ MORE: Province grants $50,000 to Greater Victoria mental health, addiction treatment providers


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