Street Outreach team members walk the streets earlier this year. The pilot project is being extended into 2018. Photo: Tyler Harper

Street Outreach team to continue another year

Fundraising currently under to support the project through 2018

The Nelson Street Outreach team will be active downtown for at least another year.

Rona Park, executive director of Nelson Community Services (NCS), said Tuesday that fundraising is already well underway to extend the pilot project, which hit the streets last October.

Park said the team still requires $40,000 in funding to reach its goal of $110,000, and she’s hoping that comes from grants as well as community support.

“We’d like to say we had an enormous success last year and based on that we’d like to appeal to the community again to support us through donations,” she said.

Street Outreach started out as a three-person team that was created by the Nelson Street Culture Collaborative. Shortly before its formation, a city bylaw that would have prohibited panhandling was voted down partly because city council wanted to give the outreach team time to do its job.

The jobs of Jeremy Kelly, Ryall Giuliano, Bernadette White, as well as project manager Lynda Dechief, include providing people on the street with basic needs, such as vitamins or tampons, as well as connecting their clients to Nelson’s various social services.

Related: Here to Help: Nelson Street Outreach is making a difference

Related: Homelessness on the rise in Nelson

White has resigned from the team, which will continue on with Kelly, Giuliano and Dechief.

Park said she will request that NCS take over the project entirely at a meeting with the collaborative next month. She will also be releasing data at the meeting that shows the impact the team has had during the year.

The ninth annual Report Card on Homelessness released in June showed Street Outreach had connected with 179 people between October to March 31, providing 2,201 services through 1,450 interactions.

Park thinks the team needs one more year of work to show whether or not it is worth continuing long term.

“We actually have noticed there is more people than we initially set out to believe there was,” said Park. “So we have to continue to assess it and in some ways I’m seeing this second year as confirmation of the pilot, and we either confirm that yes, this is an ongoing, sustaining level of need, this is the right model, or we say this program cannot meet the need or it’s changed so much it’s not needed.”

If the program continues into the future, Park said the funding plan will also need to change.

“Programs like this should really be funded by the provincial government,” she said. “We continue to be in contact with Interior Health particular around this, saying that the majority of the people in the population that we serve do have mental health or addiction issues. …

“It needs a home, that’s for sure. It’s difficult to sustain this level of fundraising.”

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