Community services

Pilot program in Kamloops to pair a Community Services Officer with an Outreach Worker

$468,000 initiative will connect city’s homeless to shelters and support services

City of Kamloops launches $468,000 pilot program pairing outreach workers with community service officers.

The CSO outreach and response program will include foot and bicycle patrols by a community services officer and an outreach worker of mixed-use and commercial centers and corridors and around shelters, providing awareness and connecting the sans -shelter at shelters and support services.

CSOs will remain in plain clothes, as uniformed officers have been identified as a threatening barrier to some people.

The city’s social, housing and community development manager, Carmin Mazzotta, said 2.8 full-time equivalent CSO positions and outreach workers are needed. Outreach workers will be contracted through social service agencies and the program will be evaluated in 2023.

Mazzotta, appearing before council last week, called for the program to be funded from reserves and to reimburse that reserve if a grant was obtained through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.

Com. Kathy Sinclair said awareness had been lacking.

“I think it will fill a need,” she said.

Council cleared staff in a unanimous 7-0 vote (Councillor Dieter Dudy was absent and Councilor Bill Sarai declared a conflict of interest because his family member is a Community Services Officer) to fund the program through reserve funds and to request $1.5 million. through the Union of BC Municipalities Strengthening Communities’ Services 2022 program, which the city hopes to fund the pilot project, as well as other initiatives.

The breakdown of the city’s Union of BC Grant Strengthening Communities’ Services request, totaling $1.5 million, is as follows:

• Private security for the Tranquille corridor and Victoria Street West: $720,000;

• Awareness and intervention program for community service agents: $468,000 (to be financed independently of grants);

• Envision awareness shuttle: $138,000;

• Peer program for the recovery of sharp objects: $143,000;

• Housing, Recovery and Employment Video Project Program with Peer Support Services: $35,000;

• Kamloops Network Safe and Secure Meetings: $5,000.

The city wants to continue the Envision Shuttle, which has been run by the Canadian Mental Health Association and is currently funded with federal funds until July 31 of this year. Mazzotta called the program “very successful” and said an average of 30 people per night were moved via shuttle to cold weather shelters last winter. The cost of the program is $138,000.

One request – $720,000 for 24-hour private security of the Victoria Street West and Tranquille Corridor areas – drew criticism from some council members.

Com. Dale Bass said it was a lot of money, noting that she didn’t find the security effective.

“Because security guards really can’t do as much or have as much training as outreach workers,” she said. “Wouldn’t we be further along to use more of that money for more outreach workers…so we can actually get people to get things done rather than just getting people ahead?”

Mazzotta said one of the expected outcomes is to address community concerns, noting that the city already provides this service.

“It’s something that has been well received by businesses in the region and about which we have received positive feedback,” he said.