Skip to content

Hospital foundation concerned about unhoused, substance use next to its office

North Cowichan asked to help
The Cowichan District Hospital Foundation is raising concerns about issues it is having with unhoused people and substance use outside its office at the corner of Garden and James streets. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

The Cowichan District Hospital Foundation wants North Cowichan to do something about the growing problems with unhoused people and substance abuse that is occurring around its office on the corner of James and Garden streets.

In a letter to the municipality, CDHF chair David Robertson said that while the foundation, a charity that raises funds to purchase equipment and support patient and resident care at the Cowichan District Hospital and Cairnsmore Place, understands the broader challenges associated with homelessness and substance use, it finds it necessary to highlight the specific safety concerns the organization faces on a daily basis.


“The safety of our staff has become a paramount concern due to the rising number of incidents of unauthorized access, aggressive behaviour, open substance use, vandalization of personal property, and general instability in the vicinity,” Robertson said.

“To mitigate some of these risks, we are compelled to keep our doors locked at all times, thereby hindering our ability to provide seamless services to our community. One of the most alarming issues we have encountered is the frequent occurrences of fires being started outside our building. These fires seem to be happening with more frequency, along with the ‘tent cities’ being erected on our property, leaving behind garbage, human excrement, and damaging property.”

Robertson said this not only poses a direct threat to the CDHF’s property, located at 5822 Garden St., and a potential loss of donor funds, but also requires the foundation to involve law enforcement and emergency services to address these situations.


He said the presence of drug paraphernalia left on the ground around the premises also occurs frequently.

“As well, air pollution caused by exhaled mainstream drug smoke by our doors and on the street creates an additional health and safety risk for the whole community, including our staff, our constituents, children walking to and from schools and daycare, visitors of the food bank, and persons with disabilities visiting Clements Centre nearby,” he said.

“Instances of overdoses and encounters further compound the challenges we face in maintaining a safe and secure environment for the staff and the community at large. Recognizing the complexities of addressing homelessness and substance use, we implore the Municipality of North Cowichan to take urgent action.”

Robertson said the CDHF would like to see an increased police presence in the area, and a collaboration begun with local social-service organizations to enhance outreach programs and supports for people experiencing homelessness and/or addiction.

He said the foundation would also like North Cowichan to review and revise its bylaws to restrict open substance use within a specific distance of businesses, schools, parks, healthcare centres, and community centres, and consider adding resources or measures specific to the are where its office is located to address the unique challenges faced by the CDHF and surrounding community members.

“We believe that through collaborative efforts between local authorities, social-service organizations, and the broader community, we can create a safer and more inclusive environment for everyone in the Cowichan Valley,” Robertson said.

Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
Read more