Those struggling to make ends meet in Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, and Fort St. James can now benefit from monthly rental supplements to keep a roof over their heads.
The Nechako Valley Community Services Society has added “prevention” to its Homeless Outreach Program as of April this year.
“The biggest thing is hidden homelessness and people in substandard housing,” said Tyrell Arnold, NVCSS’s executive director.
With the region’s colder climate, residents may not see homelessness on the street —unlike warmer cities such as Vancouver where the homeless population is more visible — but there are those who hop between friends’ homes to stay off the street, Arnold said.
Providing support and funds by application based on need, the program’s biggest challenge in town is the lack of safe and affordable housing for NVCSS’s clients.
“People come in for support and there would be no leasing stock available,” Arnold said. “They end up going to bigger shelters like Prince George and Vancouver for more support.”
He also explained that while NVCSS’s clients typically include those suffering from poverty, disability, or mental illness, as well as those fleeing from violent situations, the least-heard-about client group is single men.
“For example, the man of a couple having a violent relationship may leave the home for his wife and children, and look for a place to rent,” Arnold said. “He needs support, even though he’s the perpetrator.”
In addition to rental supplements, NVCSS also provides work opportunities for those with developmental disabilities through the Mobile Work Crew program, the employees of which sell firewood and are available for hire to do work such as snow removal and lawn mowing.
For Elaine van Koughnett, the program has helped her son Jay and his roommate Daniel Mattie, both part of the Mobile Work Crew, to live independently.
“They wouldn’t be on their own without this program,” Van Koughnett said.