A money request from Selkirk College for a street nursing program to tackle regional homelessness has ignited debate whether Nelson, Trail and Castlegar can work together.
College researcher Jayme Jones asked Nelson city council Tuesday night for a letter of support for their federal grant application for an outreach program to tackle homelessness. The grant for a social innovation project could provide the college with up to $360,000 over three years.
The request also asks for $7,500 cash and $7,500 in-kind time if the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council application is approved. The project’s official title is “Bridging Rural Homelessness and Well-being – A Sustainable and Collaborative Regional Response.”
The in-kind time would amount to five days work by municipal staff or members of council on a regional summit on homelessness.
Jones says a similar program was run in 2020 in Nelson, Trail and Castlegar and was “very successful.” Homelessness is a regional matter because they see patterns in the homeless population moving between the three urban areas in West Kootenay, she explained.
Because of that movement, even if one of the municipalities doesn’t come on board, the nursing student intern would still visit that area.
That prompted Coun. Cal Renwick to ask for the request to be amended, contingent on Trail and Castlegar signing on, as well as support from the regional districts (RDCK and RDKB).
While appreciating the intent, the rest of council voted against Renwick’s amendment.
“Jayme and Selkirk College is trying to do something which we desperately need in our area. To kill a project like that because we don’t get total buy-in? Very dangerous. I think we need to support these kinds of efforts. We have a huge poverty problem in this area. It’s extremely expensive and only getting more expensive,” Coun. Jesse Woodward said.
Coun. Keith Page agreed to move forward and figure out how bring Trail and Castlegar into other conversations and “face forward on projects we can all work on together.”
In any event, both Castlegar and Trail council also voted to support the project with identical contributions following similar presentations this week.
If approved, the college could be able to hire three summer interns, meaning each community is paying for one intern but would see them in the community over three summers. The program would support 420 hours work each summer.
Selkirk already does street nursing as part of practicum when college classes are in session but this program is meant to bridge the gap in coverage between spring and fall.
The grant application is due Feb. 4.