City of Nanaimo funds one warming centre for this coming winter

City of Nanaimo funds one warming centre for this coming winter

After a tough few months for Craig Kambeitz, he’s glad to hear Nanaimo will have a warming centre.

He lives in a Nanaimo shelter and recently had his ID and guitars stolen. On Friday though, he’s glad to hear those on the streets will have a safe place to warm up this winter.

“I think that’ll be great. They’re going to need it because there are a lot of people that have no where to go,” he said.

On Wednesday, at a special council meeting, Nanaimo city council approved $230,000 for Risebridge to operate a warming centre seven days a week from Nov. 14 to the end of March.

“We know what it means to community and how many we’ll be able to support, and what it means when our doors are open and we can operate. So of course the funding is super helpful and it ensures we can open the doors for those needs,” said Jovanne Johnson with Risebridge.

But the Nanaimo Area Public Safety Association says the details behind the move are questionable at best. An issue is the nearly half-a-million dollars the city pays each year to a group called the Systems Planning Organization.

It’s tasked with lobbying senior levels of government for funding to help the vulnerable.

That half-a-million, is in addition to the nearly a quarter of a million the city just approved.

“It was a huge waste of taxpayer money and mayor and council know it, and they should be cancelling this program like there’s still close to $2 million left in the budget for this,” said Collen Middleton, interim chair of the Nanaimo Area Public Safety Association.

The city’s mayor, Leonard Krog, says the Systems Planning Organization should be cut some slack.

“The other funding sources are clearly going to be the Province of British Columbia, and the Province of British Columbia historically has not funded warming centres. Notwithstanding anything related to social services, I think most of us understand is a provincial responsibility,” said Krog.

Councillor Tyler Brown who is the board of the Sytems Planning Organizations says the organization’s work did help Nanaimo city council decide to fund the warming centre.

“They’ve stepped into a pretty challenging issue. One with no easy answers,” said Brown. “It’s still early days with the SPO and there’s going to be little bumps figuring out the relationship between the SPO and the city.”

The city, meanwhile, is hoping there will be other warming centre locations across the city as there’s up to an estimated 1,000 people homeless.

“Obviously there needs to be more places for people and everything is so expensive out here. Rents are so expensive so you got to do something,” said Kambeitz.

Kambeitz says the most vulnerable need more support to not only help them turn their lives around, but survive.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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