Thursday April 24, 2014

Christian: Council ponders housing solutions

I am writing this column from jail. Before you think I have gone all Toronto on you, it is the United Way Jail at the TCC. I will be here until I can come up with $500.

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Several weeks ago, the City hosted an affordable housing seminar and tour. Several councillors attended. Nationally, 25 per cent of our population struggles with housing needs. In Kamloops, that number is lower, but we are still short 2,000 units of affordable housing.  

The purpose of the day was to get developers, building suppliers, non-profits, B.C. Housing, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and City staff all on the same page — looking at needs, opportunities, grants and creative ways to increase the stock and to provide much-needed roofs over the heads of students, seniors, working poor, single parents and those with mental health and addictions issues.

For many, through fate or circumstance, the ability to afford and manage secure, adequate housing has been compromised.

Provincially, there is a tool kit available to assist communities in facing housing issues. Most of that kit was developed based on the successes here in Kamloops.

The tour took us to vacant pre-zoned sites for future developments as well as to several well run existing developments.

Whether it is Interior Community Services, Elizabeth Fry or the Canadian Mental Health Association, non-profit groups acutely recognize the need and work tirelessly on
behalf of their clients. It is only when the basic needs of housing are met that many clients can address other chronic problems and return to market-based housing options.

Also last week, Council took on the challenge of hosting the Sunday PIT Stop dinner at the Kamloops United Church. Under the capable chefmanship of Coun. Donovan Cavers, we warmed and served 130 of the city’s neediest residents. The new kitchen that has recently been completed is superb. The need is great. The experience is richly satisfying.

Each Sunday various service clubs, community groups and businesses take a team of around 12-15 people, spend the afternoon and create a warm and
nutritious dinner for those in need.

The Foodshare program provides most of the raw ingredients and the love and talent of the volunteers turn that into an afternoon meal. Then it is cleanup, portioning and dropping off any leftovers. You are done in five short hours. PIT stands for People in Transition. As with the affordable housing, it is hard to make progress addressing chronic issues when you are cold, lonely and hungry.

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That brings me back to my current plight; raising $500 to make bail and get out of jail. 

The list of organizations that the Thompson-Cariboo United Way assists is impressive.

From Changing the Face of Poverty to the Red Cross or from Ask Wellness to Big Brothers Big Sisters, all agencies that serve the vulnerable and dependent. They say the measure of civil society is how you take care of the less fortunate among you.  On this point, Kamloops cares and shines; think of others this holiday season.

Ken Christian is a Kamloops City councillor.

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