Bridging Rural Homelessness and Well-being

Bridging Rural Homelessness and Well-being: A Sustainable and Collaborative Regional Response is a three-year social innovation project that started in fall 2022. The overall goal of the project is to improve the well-being of rural residents experiencing or at risk of homelessness living in and around the rural communities of Nelson, Castlegar and Trail in the West Kootenay region. It is funded through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and Mitacs, with cash and in-kind contributions from community partners. 

Share Your Voice: Understanding Community Perceptions of Homelessness Survey

Contribute to dialogue on homelessness and related services in your community by completing this short, anonymous survey. It is open to residents of Trail, Castlegar and Nelson aged 18 or older. The survey is open until August 19, 2024. 

Take the Survey

2024 West Kootenay Homelessness Response Summit
Thank you to everyone who attended the 2024 West Kootenay Homelessness Response Summit. Together, we inspired change and started to build community solutions.

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Improving Well-being

Social service organizations in the region indicate the incidence of homelessness is on the rise. The colliding crises (housing, overdose/toxic drugs, pandemic and extreme weather), and the mobility of the target population between communities, introduce complexities that require an innovative and collaborative regional response to support this marginalized population. Social service organizations in the region, like other rural regions, have low capacity and fragmented geographies. While some organizations supporting the vulnerable population are regional and work across communities, many services provided are community specific and have limited resources. There is a lack of consistency of available programming across communities and limited communication between communities. As a result, there are gaps in consistent, coordinated, and easily accessible support services.

The project uses participatory action research methodology. The diverse community partners are active participants, helping to shape the project, and the research supports action. The project participants include people with lived or living experience of homelessness, local governments, social service organizations, community organizations, Selkirk College students and faculty, and other post-secondary institutions. This broad participation provides an innovative collaboration between organizations and communities to transfer lessons, avoid duplication, make best use of limited resources and experiment with regional solutions as conditions evolve.

The project aims to:

  • Conduct research for evidence-based decision-making.
  • Strengthen relationships for sustainable regional collaboration and response actions.
  • Build regional homelessness response capacity by mobilizing college resources (faculty and students).
  • Disseminate lessons learned in the region and beyond.

The expected benefits of this project are improved well-being for those experiencing homelessness due to coordinated regional actions that respond to their evolving needs; sustainable and optimized service delivery by service organizations due to strengthened relationships, coordination and data-informed decisions; and increased community service-learning opportunities for students. One specific example of a benefit from this project is year-round street outreach by Selkirk College nursing and social work students over the next three years.



See All Selkirk College Rural Homelessness Resources

Selkirk College project team

Jayme Jones
Project Director & Researcher, Selkirk Innovates

Zakeea Al Hanafy
Outreach Intern

Mackenzie Fernquist-Kostensiuk
Outreach Intern

Leeza Perehudoff
Research Assistant, Selkirk Innovates

Jennifer Preston
Outreach Team Lead, School of Health & Human Services

Jennifer Reid
Researcher, School of Health & Human Services

Amber Streukens
Lived-Experience Co-Researcher

Rob Tanner
Researcher, School of Health & Human Services

Matthew Wheating
Lived-Experience Co-Researcher

Past Team Members

Jennifer Arrowsmith

Pier Briggeman
Outreach Intern

Amanada Sigurdson
Outreach Team Lead, School of Health & Human Services

Christina Wahlers
Outreach Intern, Selkirk Innovates

Community partners
  • Anglican Parish of Kokanee (Nelson, Kaslo & North Shore)
  • BC Housing
  • Career Development Services - Trail
  • Castlegar and District Community Service Society
  • Castlegar Integrated Services Collaborative
  • Circle of Indigenous Nations Society (COINS)
  • City of Castlegar
  • City of Nelson
  • City of Trail
  • Castlegar Community Harvest Food Bank
  • Interior Health Authority
  • Kootenay Boundary Community Services Co-operative (The Koop)
  • Kootenay Career and Development Society
  • Kootenay Savings Credit Union
  • Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction
  • Navigation Table - Trail & Area
  • Nelson CARES
  • Nelson Committee on Homelessness
  • Nelson Community Services
  • North Island College
  • Okanagan College
  • Rural Empowered Drug Users Network (REDUN)
  • Regional District of Central Kootenay
  • Regional District of Kootenay Boundary
  • Trail Community Action Team
  • Trail FAIR
  • Trail Skills Centre
  • Trail United Church

…with more partners still signing on.

If your organization would like to join, please contact Jayme Jones.

Mitacs Logo
City of Nelson logo
City of Castlegar
City of Trail

We graciously thank our donors.

  • Rossland Healthcare Auxiliary
A blue and green circle next to the words "BC Housing"
The KCSU logo: A green mountain crest that reads "Kootenay Savings"