According to our family’s aging pandemic garden boxes, it’s officially spring – even if our crocuses (maybe?) are regretting sticking their heads out of the dirt too soon during the most recent cold snap. Our family is doing well – everyone is healthy and happy. Overnight summer camps for kids were given the green light last week by Dr. Bonnie Henry, which is great news for Ez – he is very much looking forward to summer camp this year.
Summer camp openings were among many COVID-related policy announcements last week, as Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the end of the requirement of masks in many indoor settings, physicians’ offices and long-term care facilities excepted. Some restrictions were lifted immediately, while others (such as the vaccine passport and COVID management plans for business) will shift on April 8th. For the details, see: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/COVID19_Presentation_22-03-10.pdf. BC residents can pick up free rapid antigen testing kits through your local pharmacy with your PHN, please see details below.
While I am glad to reduce the number of times I have to wear a mask, and very happy that the latest data supports this loosening of provincial health restrictions, I recognize that some people in our community will still want to wear a mask, and some businesses may still require a mask, in indoor spaces that are not able to be sufficiently ventilated or are otherwise higher risk. For example, masks remain welcome on public transit and required on HandyDART.
In these changing circumstances, I am grateful to everyone as we work together to continue to do our best to be consistent with the public health advice that has served our province so well throughout this ever-changing pandemic.
Beyond COVID, we had big news in February when the provincial budget was released. As Housing Minister, I was glad to see government support for 20 complex care housing sites across the province. We have four pilot sites either open or opening soon, two of which are in Vancouver, which will inform the roll out of the remaining sites across B.C. This type of housing is best understood as “super supportive” housing for people with serious mental health and addiction issues who do not do well in supportive housing, but who are not appropriate candidates for involuntary care.
I believe that this type of housing, which will be run by health authorities because it leans much further toward medical care than simple housing, will not only make a significant difference in the lives of those who benefit from the housing, but will also benefit communities that have seen these individuals cycle in and out of emergency rooms, courtrooms, and the street. We will be using careful research to identify the impact of this model, and will modify it to respond to best practices that show the best results for residents and communities in improving quality of life. If you are interested in more details, this is more in-depth information about this strategy and our plan for evaluation: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/government/ministries-organizations/ministries/mental-health-addictions/draft_complex_care_housing_framework_-_feb_2022_external_v2.pdf.
Also in the budget were thousands of new rent supplements, which will be used as part of our homelessness strategy. These rent supplements, managed by social service agencies and BC Housing, will help us support vulnerable individuals, like people leaving hospitals with nowhere to go and youth aging out of government care, to work to prevent a cycle of homelessness. Despite record investments in homeless response, homeless populations have grown in our province due to pandemic-related reductions in access to social services as well as a red-hot housing market and record low vacancy rates as our province experiences a 30-year high in new residents moving to B.C. By going upstream with our investments, we can help prevent chronic homelessness that results in very negative consequences for individuals and communities.
The budget also announced:
- increased funding for sexual assault response centres so that victims of sexual assault across the province will have appropriate support and response to assist them;
- new resources to advance reconciliation with First Nations through a secretariat that will work in partnership with First Nations to align our provincial laws with First Nations rights and title;
- more than a billion dollars for carbon pollution reduction and climate change resilience for infrastructure;
- and money for partnership with the Federal Government on reduced childcare costs for families rolling out over the next couple of months.
To read more about the budget, which is also building schools, hospitals, transit and vital infrastructure to respond to our record high provincial population growth, click here: https://www.bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/2022/default.htm.
I’m happy to share that it is a new cycle for Westside Neighbourhood Small Grants and Youth Small Grants from the Vancouver Foundation. These grants help support neighbours in our community hosting small scale initiatives to bring people together. If you’re interested in more details, see the detailed information below or visit the Vancouver Foundation website. The small-grant funded photo exhibit “Humans of Kitsilano” is currently featured in our front window, and we welcome other small grant recipients to use our window or our meeting space again. In other news, Vancouver’s Poet Laureate, Fiona Tinwei Lam, has asked us to pass on to you to an invitation to a poetry contest–there are many opportunities for your creativity this spring! Further details on the poetry contest are also below this message.
As always, I am honoured to be your representative in Victoria – please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and my office. My staff are available to help you navigate various provincial government entities and agencies. As always, my constituents can reach out for a 15 minute check-in (mostly on Fridays via zoom) to let me know how you think things are going or what you’d like to see in the future. The information and opinions you share will help shape provincial policy.