The City of Williams Lake launched a rent bank last month, but now all renters in the Cariboo will have access to the service through funding from the Provincial Government.
   Melissa Giles, the Project Lead at the BC Rent Bank, says the service is basically a homelessness prevention resource.
   “It does two things, one is it offers financial assistance for people who are struggling to pay their rent or for people who need to move into safe and secure housing, so they need first months rent or a security deposit.   And the other thing that rent banks do is they offer support to renters as they navigate the systems.   Where else in the community can I turn ?   How do I access federal benefits ?  How do I access provincial benefits ?”
   Giles says it is easy for a renter that’s in the low to moderate income bracket to access this service.
   “The best way is to go to bcrentbank.ca and we have an apply tab.  There are some common questions there, but basically people can search either for the community that live in or the regional district where they live in.   And from there they can start the process by filling out the pre-assessment, and then somebody will be in contact with them and guide them through the rest of the steps.”
   BC Rent Bank is a project of Vancity Community Foundation, but Giles says they are also looking for help locally to run the program.
   “Our model is very much reliant on community based non-profit organizations, so we have funding agreements and we support local groups that want to start this program in their area.   For example in the Central Okanagan we partner with CMHA Kelowna.  For this province-wide rent bank system we’re partnering with Kamloops Elizabeth Fry Society,  and they’re going to be able to deliver this service for renters.”
   Giles says they are looking for funders for help to ensure the long term sustainability of this program.
   “For community groups and the private sector, whether you’re in property management, you’re a foundation, you’re a financial institution, municipalities, we need that local support as well.”
   Anyone interested can get in touch with Giles at [email protected]