By  Terry Farrell – Comox Valley Record – posted Oct 23, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Dawn to Dawn is getting a funding infusion, thanks to a new program launched by the provincial government, and the timing is spot on.

Dawn to Dawn Action on Homelessness Society has been selected to be a Homeless Prevention Program (HPP) provider in Courtenay. Participants will receive monthly rental supplements to keep their housing costs in the private market affordable and assistance from outreach workers who will connect them with community supports and make sure they remain housed.

“Having this program is an important step to prevent homelessness and helping people keep a safe roof over their heads,” said Comox Valley MLA Don McRae, in a BC Government Caucus press release. “Rental assistance programs are a real game changer. They’re a flexible option for most households, people can choose where they want to live and there are no waitlists as often is the case for subsidized housing.”

Perfect timing

The new program is perfect timing for Dawn to Dawn, whose funding assistance program with the Comox Valley Regional District is set to expire on Nov. 30.

“We are absolutely delighted that BC Housing, on behalf of the government of BC, is going to help us help people who are homeless in the Valley,” said Dawn to Dawn president Richard Clarke. “It’s wonderful and terrific news. And the timing couldn’t be better.

“When we bid for the grant that CVRD made available two years ago, we deliberately proposed to use that money over a 24-month period, hoping that it would give us some time to find some longer-term funding. So we were cutting this close, but I can sleep good now. The provincial funding will essentially enable us to continue our scattered housing program on a similar basis for approximately another 2 1/2 years.”

Dawn to Dawn was able to assist roughly two dozen people at any one time throughout the past two years, through the CVRD funding. The provincial funding is marginally higher, which will help even more, but it’s still only a partial solution.

Up to 200 homeless in the Valley

“The need is bigger than the funding,” said Clarke. “At any given time in the Valley, we estimate that there are anywhere from 120 to 200 homeless people, somewhere in that range. Of course, it depends how you characterize homeless. They might be living in a tent. They might be sleeping on someone else’s couch. They might be living under a tree, that kind of thing. But they all need help.”

That’s where Dawn to Dawn comes in. It’s somewhat of a “topping up” service, meeting the needs of people where the welfare system comes up short.

“People who are on social assistance in B.C. will get up to $375 a month for rent,” said Clarke. “So if you put two people together, topped up the difference and paid for utilities, you could actually get people off the streets and into a two-bedroom apartment.

“So we will rent an apartment unit here, a condo unit there, an apartment unit somewhere else… that’s where the term ‘scattered housing’ comes from.”

Clarke said that while scattered housing works where there are no other options, the city’s proposed Braidwood project would be a huge boost for Dawn to Dawn and other such associations.

“Those studio-style apartments, where one person can live in, and they are less expensive to build, less expensive to maintain, that would really (address) our needs,” said Clarke. “So if that property that the City of Courtenay is moving towards, on the bottom of Braidwood (Road) goes ahead, that would probably meet the needs of some of our current clients, as well as some of our (prospective) clients that we are not able to support right now. That would be extremely helpful so I am hoping that goes forward.”

Dawn to Dawn was created in 2008 and relies heavily on donor support and government grants for its coffers.

“We have to run a pretty lean machine,” said Clarke. “We still haven’t been able to find that unique fundraiser that would work for us, so we have been relying on the generosity of others.”

Indebted to CVRD

He added that while the current funding aspect of their relationship with the Regional District is about to end, their gratitude towards the CVRD will not end any time soon.

“Not only did the CVRD’s money allow us to house those people for the last two years, but they (CVRD) were also entrusting us with those funds,” said Clarke. “That allowed us to demonstrate not only that we’ve got an effective and cost-efficient way of helping to house the homeless, but it also demonstrated that we are good stewards of public funds. They also advocated to the senior levels of government on our behalf. All of that helped us get into this new program, so we are really indebted to the CVRD for their support.”

-With files from BC Government Caucus