Innovative Proposal for Riverview Lands

The Riverview Intentional Community Society has launched a proposal that would see a mix of housing for people living with mental illness and market rate housing. An ‘intentional community’ would see coffee shops, art centres and other amenities, along with medical staff to help support those living with mental illness. The society argues that this kind of project will help the mentally ill integrate into society while still receiving medical support. Residents in the market housing would hopefully form relationships and foster greater understanding.

This type of project is going to take the cooperation of several social ministries: health, social development, mental health and housing. Under current government ministerial silos, this type of collaboration is challenging and will require a great deal of cooperation amongst ministries.

It is this type of innovative project that would thrive under a social policy framework like the There is a Better Way: A BC Framework for Wellbeing project. A social policy framework, built by consulting the citizens of the province, the community-benefit organizations that provide services to people, and other stakeholders to create a plan that is based on the social determinants of health and evaluated by evidence. The policy would be evaluated against pre-determined outcomes designed to measure its efficacy. No longer would social policy be crisis-driven.

As a province, we spend billions of dollars on social policy and services. We have no idea if those programs are effective. Community-benefit organizations spend a great deal of time tracking services for performance-based contracts which places the focus on outputs rather than overall outcomes. Yearly re-applications for funding and the administrative workload (which is often not funded) this work creates hobble innovation. Constant competition for government contracts between organizations, limits opportunities for innovation.

Governments consistently state that there is no more money for services. A social policy framework would most likely benefit the government’s bottom line as ministerial duplication will be reduced. Projects like the one proposed for the Riverview Lands could potentially be self-supporting. However, it’s going to take a lot of political will and foresight to make that happen. Most governments who face election every four years do not favour ‘upstream’ solutions for which they will not see immediate benefits.

Currently there are so many social issues that are in crisis: homelessness, opioids and mental health to name the most prominent. There are other hidden issues like the inability of community-benefit organizations to hire and retain staff due to low wages because they are competing with other agencies (many unionized) and government. It’s time to create BC’s social policy framework.

See the CBC article here.