The headline caught my eye. ‘SRD Delivers’ is a play on words, for a program meant to assist “with grocery shopping, the delivery of food, prescriptions and other essentials for the benefit of the elderly (65+) and other vulnerable persons who must self-isolate in accordance with Public Health Orders.” However, could there also be a deeper meaning – does the SRD deliver?
The Story Behind ‘SRD Delivers’
There doesn’t appear to be another program like ‘SRD Delivers’ on Vancouver Island. In fact, Emergency Response Coordinator Shaun Koopman is not aware of anything resembling it – anywhere. The need was immediately apparent, after he sat in on community meetings throughout the Strathcona Regional District.
“Whether it was Gold River, Tahsis or Cortes, I just kept hearing concerns about people with low incomes not being able to do all their shopping in town. Usually the local community doesn’t have the grocery supply anyway. How can we encourage people to limit their trips to town and provide them with the service and funding to help make that happen?”
Koopman approached Emergency Management BC.
“The Province said that the cost of delivering groceries, prescriptions, pet food etc would be considered an eligible COVID 19 response cost expense. This kind of expense has never been eligible in the past, so there wasn’t a plan to implement it.”
‘SRD Delivers’ came into being after several meetings. The SRD will pay the initial costs, but after the emergency is over the province will reimburse them for 100% of response costs and 80% of recovery costs.
Response on Cortes Island
When Koopman unveiled this plan, at Cortes Island’s First Virtual Town Hall meeting, I do not think most of us knew how to respond. Subsequently, I asked two Cortes organizations what they thought.
Seniors Helping Seniors is a volunteer organization. While its members help people shop for groceries, there is no payment involved. So when I asked the co-ordinator, Carina Verhoeve, for her opinion of the SRD program, she replied, “I do not know.”
Augmented Home Support has paid workers, but delivering groceries is only a small part of what they do. They are considering how this program applies to their situation.
Maybe this funding will spark the birth of new organizations, devoted to delivering food, prescriptions and other needs in rural areas for as long as this pandemic lasts.
In the SRD press release, SRD Chair Michele Babchuk said, “We have already seen a number of organizations emerge to provide community support during this event. As an example, the efforts of the Quadra Island Caremongering Group caught the attention of Prime Minister Trudeau, as he tweeted about it on March 30th. Supporting these initiatives and advocating for sustainable funding to help these organizations achieve their goals is very important to the SRD Board.”
The SRD closed its doors to the public on March 17, 2020, so how have they been delivering on other services?
“Employees who provide community services, including development planning, building, parks and engineering have found unique ways to stay connected while working from home to continue to provide much-needed services,” said Aniko Nelson, Senior Manager, SRD Community Services.
The SRD continues to provide, process and/or issue:
- Planning applications such as zoning or official community plan amendments, development permits, development variance permits – processed electronically
- New Building Permit Applications – received electronically and/or via SRD reception drop box (990 Cedar Street weekdays from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm)
- Building Inspections, where required public health directives can be met
- Engineering Applications such as water and sewer service requests
- BC One Calls continue as normal
Emails, phone calls and video conferencing have replaced in-person meetings. Payments are either electronic or by cheque. For more information, or to ask development-related questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-830-6718.