With the housing crisis affecting most of the province of B.C., there are multiple conversations happening in Vanderhoof to address the issue on a local level.
On one end, we have an advocacy group led by Veronika Zwick, a resident of Vanderhoof who started the petition for a homeless shelter in the community.
And on the other side, we have a housing investment cooperative being formed in the District. Conversations are being led by business owners and managers like Graham Stanley, general manager for Community Futures Stuart-Nechako; Rex Millard, owner of Ace Hardware; John Aldersliesten; Dean Scott, owner of Scott’s Grille and Pizzeria; Jeff Boon, owner of Boon Bros. Construction Ltd; Keagan Leigh, owner of K.Leigh Precision Earthworks Ltd., and many others.
Veronika Zwick received a total of 418 signatures towards her petition for a homeless shelter in the community. The petition was open for 43 days, with 312 people signing it online and 106 in-person signatures. Zwick submitted the petition to Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen on March 3.
“Since the middle of January I have been exploring the need for a shelter in Vanderhoof. I have talked to many organizations, gotten feedback from residents, circulated the petition, and gathered like-minded people who want to find a solution to this issue,” she wrote in her letter.
“I hope that you will understand that there is a need for a shelter, however temporary it may be. We need a safe place for individuals to sleep, and to connect them with the resources they may need to help overcome the adversities they face in their day-to-day lives.”
Zwick further said council will received a ‘letter of support draft’ for this initiative. “It will be up to Mayor and Council if they would like to support this initiative in Vanderhoof.”
Meanwhile on March 4, Zwick hosted a VHF Homeless Shelter Collab meeting, virtually via Zoom. Coun. Ken Young, Coun. Kevin Murphy, Coun. and Mayor Gerry Thiessen, were at the meeting including multiple other social workers, residents and business owners invested in the conversation.
During the collab meeting, the hostess engaged multiple stakeholders including Salvation Army on the topic of a shelter and the solutions that can come out of it. Corps officer Neil Wilkinson for Salvation Army in Vanderhoof, based out of Prince George offered a solution that could entail a trailer put on district land, which would be more cost efficient as well as convenient for the time being, he said. On the other hand, Wilkinson also said he would like Zwick and other stakeholders to take into consideration that having a homeless shelter is not a long term solution. “If you build it, they will come,” he said.
Mayor Gerry Thiessen said he along with council are looking for a solution and are first trying to ascertain what the problems are.
Vanderhoof Investment Cooperative
Vanderhoof Investment Cooperative is a proposed community investment cooperative that aims to direct new, or pre-existing, investment capital from residents and businesses into local ventures with community impact, as stated in a Feb. 26 handout from officials.
The Investment Co-op is a for profit cooperative corporation which will be owned and governed by residents and businesses serving the District if Vanderhoof.
“The mission of the Investment Co-op is to promote the growth of Vanderhoof through increased housing development, the development and expansion of businesses and increased economic development in our community. The secondary mission of the investment co-op is to provide residents and businesses with a mechanism to invest directly into local projects that promote the growth and development of the community of Vanderhoof.”
The cooperative is still looking to expand their base and invite more business owners from the community looking to become members, to help create an advisory group that will assist the community investment cooperative to formulate positive and inclusive policies aimed at growing the district.
Currently, the group has a four step formula. Step 1 will include members of the investment co-op pooling their money together to promote housing development and create economic opportunities within district boundaries.
In their second step, the co-op will finance local ventures who demonstrate an ability for community impact and sustainable operations. This includes initiatives to increase the housing and economic development options within the district.
In step 3, they will assist eligible ventures with business development support, and if necessary, will advocate to other lenders to collaboratively finance these businesses. Lastly, the investment co-op in their fourth step will work closely with loan recipients to provide them with mentorship, promotion, and referrals to other ongoing business development services.
If you are interested in being part of Vanderhoof’s Investment Cooperative, send in your name to John Alderliesten at J5674961@telus.net