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Regional district helps community kitchen keep serving hot meals to homeless

The Strathcona Regional District (SRD) is hoping to help the community kitchen in Campbell River get enough funding to stay open for four more years.

The Hama?elas Community Kitchen downtown on Shoppers row is a volunteer-run non-profit. At a board meeting earlier this month the regional district agreed to apply for $700,000 in federal funding on its behalf to hire a peer co-ordinator and cover costs for the next four years.

Previous funding provided through the Union of BC Municipalities’ Strengthening Communities Fund for the past two years is about to expire.

Aniko Nelson, the district’s senior manager of community services, says the funding will help people with lived experience with homelessness help others.

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“The budgeting that would go to the co-ordinator’s position is actually in effect supporting the community and those members that are using the community [kitchen], and helping those members to develop life skills to actually be able to move on and have a path forward,” she told the board. “The wages… actually are going directly towards helping those in the community.”

City councilor Ron Kerr is on the board and says homelessness and hunger isn’t just a city problem.

“One of the questions was why the SRD’s involved. This issue is a regional issue,” he said. “As much as it happens in downtown Campbell River, it draws from the whole region. I think this will give stability and structure to Hama?elas kitchen’s operations for four years.”

The board agreed to apply to Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program Fund, which supports “innovative and evidence informed projects including substance use prevention, harm reduction and treatment initiatives across the country.”

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If the funding application is successful, the peer co-ordinator position would be hired and managed through the regional district. The co-ordinator would provide structure to the program, assist with the kitchen needs and scheduling, create succession plans for peers in the program, and help with daily operations needs such as maintenance of outdoor areas.

The kitchen served nearly 30,000 hot meals last year, 82 every night, to people without homes and regular access to food.

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