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Local governments put out call for urgently needed extreme weather shelters

Following the most recent Point-in-Time counts from the province, the three municipal governments and CVRD are asking for support in locating extreme weather shelters.

The count revealed a 106 per cent increase in homelessness in the area, but it was a snapshot recorded in March and mayors say that could have changed.

CVRD board chair Jesse Ketler says in past years, the community was able to provide spaces. However, they are unfortunately unavailable this year.

The governments say two separate buildings would be ideal, and it would be best for the building to have the following parameters:

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  • Dry and secure space (minimum 1,500 square feet) 
  • Ideally two locations to support the diversity of needs of those experiencing homelessness, with each space accommodating 20 to 40 people 
  • Two washrooms 
  • Kitchen space is ideal but not required 
  • Available starting in November through Mar. 31, 2024 ideally from 8 p.m. – 8 a.m. daily 
  • Will require fire department approval (proper emergency exits, etc.) 

Once a location is found, they say they will be able to get funding from the province to ensure unsheltered individuals have a safe and warm place to be overnight during the winter.

Courtenay mayor Bob Wells says it has not been necessarily easy in the past to get shelter and the spaces often need to move and change programming.

He adds given the Point-in-Time count; it makes getting shelter even more important this winter.

“That’s why we’ve said, ‘rather than looking at one, we really got to start looking at two,’” said Wells. “These numbers are from March, but it’s about 100 people that would be listed as completely unhoused.

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“That number could have gone up; it could be underrepresented. So, by having these multiple locations, that gives us the opportunity to provide more services to more people.”

Cumberland mayor Vickey Brown adds that it is devastating to see homelessness affecting more and more people and highlights the need for critical shelter even more.

Comox mayor Nicole Minions adds they are asking for the community to show up in a big way and assist in finding a location.

“We have local (Comox) and Comox Valley residents facing housing insecurity. We collectively understand how important it is for everyone to have a safe, warm indoor space,” said Minions.

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“The increase in housing insecurity in the Comox Valley continues to show how important working together with all levels of government and our own community relationships are.”

Wells says he wants to thank the Coalition to End Homelessness for stepping up to manage the shelter. He also thanks the community for coming together and the CVRD for allocating more funds this week to fund these types of initiatives.

“Through the collective leadership of the Comox Valley within the unceded Territory of K’ómoks First Nation, I am pleased with this group coming together to try to come up with a solution for this upcoming serious issue,” added K’ómoks First Nation Chief councillor Ken Price.

If you have a location that would be suitable, you are asked to contact Angela Fletcher with the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness at [email protected] or 250-218-3752.  

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