Victoria Foundation awards $1.7M in grants

The Victoria Foundation has approved $1,726,975 in community grants for 2015, with awards ranging from $100,000 for the newly formed Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness to $2,000 for a stained-glass restoration project at Centennial United Church.

It is a record total for the grants, which are given out each December. Overall, the foundation has disbursed more than $14.2 million in 2015.

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The funding for the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness will support start-up activities such as strategic planning and outreach.

More than 30 per cent of the region’s homeless people come from an aboriginal background, said Kelsi Stiles, acting executive director of the fledgling group.

“With aboriginal people representing such a large percentage, this needs to be addressed by the community in a much more holistic, culturally appropriate way.” she said. “And that’s why we have reached out to communities across the Island to create the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness.”

The group will work with the existing Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.

Bernice Kamano, who has worked in the aboriginal community for more than 30 years, called the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness a “long-awaited reality.”

“Finally, there will be a place for the First Nations homelessness community to safely access services that are designed to help them on their journey to wellness,” she said in a statement.

The group represents a “critical piece that has been missing,” she said.

Other grants among the 89 that were made are: $15,000 to the Peninsula Streams Society for environmental-education programs in the Greater Victoria and Saanich school districts; $20,000 to Project Literacy Victoria to help it get re-established after a six-month closure due to financial problems; and $20,000 to the Rocky Point Bird Observatory for its efforts in monitoring migratory bird populations.

Victoria Foundation chief executive officer Sandra Richardson said selecting grant recipients from a host of deserving applicants is a challenge.

“It’s done in such a fair and equitable process because they have a committee — the community engagement committee — that is made up of [foundation] board staff and community individuals,” she said. “The committee certainly tries their best to spread this funding as far as they can.”

The foundation’s annual Vital Signs report about issues that concern residents helps in deciding how the grants can best be distributed, Richardson said.

“That’s really the lens that the committee uses.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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