Social Housing in Nanaimo -- ICCS Experience and Philosophy

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 Below is a brief outline of our understanding, experience, and philosophy related to social housing in Nanaimo.

Housing First

  1. In April of 2009 we published a public brief entitled; “Emerging Trends in Social Housing” that clearly defined our understanding of barriers and the Housing First Model and is available for download from our website.
  2. ICCS runs programs that are designated as high, medium, and low barrier. We do not run any facilities that are designated as minimal barrier or as “Wet Housing” and therefore we can not speak from firsthand experience about this kind of housing.
  3. A great deal of practical and real life experience went into both the development and replication of the Housing First Model throughout North America. It is a cost effective and respectful model for dealing with many of the chronic social issues related to homelessness.
  4. Nanaimo has chosen to follow the Housing First Model. This model is just one piece in the puzzle of living together peaceably as a community. We don’t know all the answers but we would like to share here some of what we do know.

What We Know

  1. Some people feel that minimal barrier housing rewards people for bad behaviour, but there is good scientific evidence to support the fact that stable housing leads to a decrease in drug and alcohol use and to better compliance with clinical advice concerning medication and cessation practices. ICCS low barrier programs have shown the same results and demonstrated the effectiveness of the Housing First philosophy in everyday practice.
  2. We work with Health Authority teams who display a high degree of both compassion and professionalism when dealing with people in our community who face challenging life circumstances. Nanaimo is fortunate to have been picked to receive funding for a new Assertive Community Treatment team. This is a crucial component in the Housing First Model and gives us confidence that new housing proposed for our community will be successful.
  3. As noted in our 2009 brief some communities focus on supportive services and downplay the language of barriers.  We agree with this approach and focus on providing support through empathy-based practices that build peoples’ capacity to heal, change, and develop as human beings in all aspects of the bio-psychosocial-spiritual spectrum.
  4. Homelessness creates fear and anxiety for those who experience it and very few people choose homelessness as a way of life. It almost universally compounds existing feelings of anxiety and discouragement.
  5. People with a complicated set of life challenges feel deep gratitude when offered a place in out of the cold. By doing so we warm both bodies and hearts.
  6. The attention of caring staff and the provision of the necessities of life can contribute to marked reduction in feelings of loneliness and insecurity, and can give people an opportunity to think about their higher needs such as a sense of belonging and meaning in life.

Our Part
As a Christian organization we are part of an ancient tradition that motivates and empowers people to love others, to hold at bay judgement and fear, and to speak to the deepest needs in peoples’ lives through acts of service and compassion.


  1. The majority of citizens fear drug use and the things that go along with drug use — drug dealers, crime, violence, and other alarming behaviour. It is natural to want to keep such things at a safe distance.
  2. Human groups often respond to scary behaviour by blaming the people involved and banishing them from the community. This is called Scapegoating. In prior times it was believed that symbolically putting a community’s misdeeds onto a goat (or later onto a person) and sending the goat off into the wilderness to die would solve the community’s problems. Regardless of what we believe about this practice, it never really lasts as a solution.
  3. The story of the Good Samaritan shows how victims should be cared for, not left to die. In fact that story was a response to the question, “who is my neighbour?” It is a good question to ask.
  4. We believe that everyone in our community is our neighbour, whether we like their behaviour or not, and our response should be like that of the Samaritan, who didn’t ask what the person did to end up in the ditch, but asked instead, “what must I do to help this person get out of the ditch?”
  5. The lives of people in the ditch today may be more complicated than they were for the Good Samaritan, but human needs are universal, we all have them.People with addictions have deep needs which have often been unmet.
  6. People with unmet needs can lose sight of their own potential and worth.
  7. By pulling together as a community we can meet some of the basic needs of others in our community and more importantly help restore the vision both of those in the ditch, and those who have trouble seeing into the ditch to the person laying there.
  8. The issues related to homelessness are complex and we may not all agree on the best way to address these issues, but as an organization working in the metaphorical “ditches,” we applaud those working with us to create a healthy and safe community for all the citizens of Nanaimo.

Did you know we have a Node 71?

What is a node 71? it is a secret code for our donation page. The place we list things we need in our programs that we think people might like to donate. Check it out:


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