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Foundation donates $110,000 to tackle capital region homelessness

The Victoria Foundation has donated $110,000 to help prevent homelessness in the region through an emergency fund for those in need.
Andrew Wynn-Williams of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness: New funds will help until 2016.

The Victoria Foundation has donated $110,000 to help prevent homelessness in the region through an emergency fund for those in need.

“This has proven to be a very successful program so we’re really grateful for this grant to continue on,” said Andrew Wynn-Williams, executive director of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.

The coalition administers the Homelessness Prevention Fund with help from local housing agencies. Someone in desperate need of funds to maintain their housing situation is eligible for a one-time grant of up to $500.

“It could be the loss of a job, an unexpected health crisis or anything that puts them at risk of homelessness,” said Wynn-Williams. Since 2011, the program has administered $170,000 to 247 individuals and 92 families.

Wynn-Williams said the new funds will allow it to continue until 2016 and help a few more people each month.

Sandra Richardson, chief executive of the Victoria Foundation, said $60,000 of the donation came from a local couple who wants to remain anonymous. The other $50,000 was matched by the foundation.

Both contributors were motivated by the foundation’s annual Vital Signs report, which listed cost of living, housing and homelessness in its top five local issues for 2014.

“The staff and board asked what could we do on the preventive side of homelessness,” said Richardson. The foundation helped start the program and wanted to keep the pot full after the coalition reported on its success. In a follow up with recipients, 87 out of 88 had stayed in their homes three months after receiving help.

“The last thing we want is someone in danger of losing their home,” said Richardson. The foundation also provided $125,000 this month to help the coalition’s Street-to-Homes housing program avoid folding.

Toni England was a single mom of a teenager about to graduate high school when a workplace injury left her unemployed and unable to continue to claim worker’s compensation due to a pre-existing condition.

“I found myself struggling to pay our rent. My medical [employment insurance] had not kicked in yet and I was desperate to secure our housing,” said England. She was referred to Burnside Gorge Community Centre housing outreach, which introduced her to the prevention fund. They were able to help her pay one month’s rent.

“If I had not received this cheque, I am positive we would have been evicted from our home within eight days,” said England. “Due to the crisis fund, I was able to provide for my daughter and begin to rebuild our lives.”

She said she is now pursuing a career as a community support worker. Her daughter graduated with honours and received bursaries towards university, where she enrolled this fall.

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