With the cold weather in full swing, the City of Duncan has been asked to help establish a daytime warming centre for the homeless in the field houses at McAdam Park.
The United Way’s Melaina Patenaude, who is also a member of the Cowichan Coalition to Address Homelessness and Affordable Housing, said in a letter to council that the coalition’s ultimate goal is to establish safe, affordable and supportive housing for everyone in need in the Cowichan Valley.
“But we recognize it will take time to gain that objective,” Patenaude said.
“In the interim, we must house or otherwise support those who are living without a shelter, and it is our hope that the City of Duncan will help meet this end.”
Duncan Mayor Phil Kent said that after reading the letter, council voted unanimously at its meeting on Nov. 20 to ask staff to prepare a report on the financial and community impacts of establishing a warming station at McAdam Park.
Patenaude said the coalition’s latest homeless count found almost 90 people living outside of shelter in the Valley.
She said a similar figure was estimated in February, 2016, when the Warmland Shelter was at capacity.
“Community members caught out-of-doors in the winter need, at minimum, a place to warm up, shower and get a cup of something hot to drink,” she said.
“Laundry facilities are important as well. One such model is in Nanaimo. With a combination of provincial and health-care funding, Harris House provides supported daytime drop-in space serving citizens who are without a place to take the chill out of their bones and shelter from the cold. We believe similar funding could be found for Duncan, given a suitable location.”
Patenaude said the field houses at McAdam Park, which have change rooms and shower facilities, were made available for this purpose in the past and, given the support of the province, it could be done again.
“If council provides the space, heat, hot water and janitorial services, or some part of them, we are confident the province can be convinced to support, supervise, and supply them with whatever is necessary to keep our community members warm and clean this winter,” she said.
“The space would, of course, be operated as a warming station outside of any hours required by sporting teams (at McAdam Park), although that need appears to be minimal from mid-November to February of most years.”
Kent said he expects the staff report will be prepared by about mid-December, and council might call for a special meeting for it to be tabled as the next scheduled council session where it can be presented won’t occur for many weeks.
“We have done this before [at McAdam Park] but we need to consult with the community to let people know this is being considered and get input before we make any decisions,” he said.