Cowichan School District wants to help homeless back to class

Cowichan Valley school trustees want to get together with officials and government agencies to find help for the homeless young people

Cowichan Valley school trustees want to get together with municipal officials and government agencies to find help for the homeless young people who’ve been camping out behind the school district offices on Beverly Street.

School board vice chair Barb De Groot said at the Oct. 4 board meeting that her talks with schools superintendent Rod Allen and board chair Candace Spilsbury have highlighted that a lot of homeless may be school-aged.

“While it’s not the school district’s problem, it is an issue for our community,” De Groot said. “I think somebody needs to step up here and I think we are going to have to do it. The fact that they are not attending school, that they are at risk in the community, means we have to get people together and say, what can we do?”

Trustees liked her idea to get the City of Duncan, North Cowichan, the Cowichan Valley Regional District, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the RCMP and other organizations together to formulate some concrete action.

At the beginning of September, the Cowichan Valley school district was forced to act quickly to deal with potential danger to students after a group of 40-60 homeless started camping and using drugs near the district’s Beverly Street headquarters.

They instituted a daily morning sweep of the property to remove drug paraphernalia and other garbage, and hired extra staff to patrol the route students have to walk between Cowichan Secondary’s James Street and Quamichan campuses, and also took action to close off an area at Cowichan Secondary School where homeless people had been gathering at night.

Allen reported Oct. 4 that the school district’s prompt action has forestalled any potential problems for students in the area.

“I’m happy to say that has improved significantly. We acted in September with an abundance of caution for our students. We’ve checked with the supervisors continually. They reported no interactions with people we wouldn’t want interacting with our young folks as they are walking back and forth. We’ve been keeping close tabs on the drug paraphernalia that we’ve found on these grounds. [Operations manager Monroe] Grobe and his staff have been sweeping the grounds every morning and are finding less and less and less. In fact, I know that some days they are finding nothing in terms of needles or whatever,” Allen said.

“As you know, we also fenced the back property of Cowichan Secondary School where there had been some people gathering in the evenings, where it’s out of sight and dry. That fencing has worked like a charm and those areas are clean in the mornings and suitable for students.

“So, our response at the moment is that we have stepped back a little bit with our supervision. We no longer have someone full time walking back and forth on the road between Cow High and Quam, but we have kept that extra supervision there at lunch when there are significant numbers of kids moving back and forth,” he said.

Trustee Elizabeth Croft was one of the trustees who has herself investigated the areas in question and praised the astuteness of the walking supervisors.

A walk along the Somenos dike showed “certainly there was no garbage on the school side of the bank but you do want to be careful on the other side. There are lots of little cubby holes where lots of folks have been hanging out.”

She asked if some concrete barriers along the far left side of the property could be moved.

“Those barriers still look to me like hidey holes where people could get up to stuff,” she said.

Allen reassured her that the district planned to move them, now that the sand and gravel that was also there has been moved to a place where it can be kept clean and usable.

Cathy Schmidt, another trustee who has walked the area, said that during the walk, the group talked about who is accountable.

“Can we ask those ministries, when it comes to those kids who should be in our buildings, how can we support getting them back into our buildings? Perhaps communication could be better there as far as that. And maybe that is our way to support it, because a lot of these homeless kids should be in our buildings during the day,” she said.

The homeless group moved in behind the school district buildings during the summer.

The biggest concern that came up in September was that, according to Allen, “a disturbingly large percentage of them are under 19” with some being as young as 14, mostly young girls in care, and that there was a lot of drug use going on near the school district offices where students would be walking every day.

Just Posted

DAVID VAN DEVENTER
Cowichan Citizen and Lake Cowichan Gazette announce new publisher

David van Deventer has been with Black Press Media since 2014

Island Health is bringing a vaccination clinic to Lake Cowichan starting June 23. (Submitted)
COVID vaccine clinic coming to Lake Cowichan as area numbers lag

Clinic will operate at arena starting June 23

The Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society, which has been operating a treatment centre on land leased from the Nanoose First Nation for 35 years (pictured), has begun a fundraising campaign to open a new centre near Duncan. (Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society photo)
New Indigenous treatment centre to be built near Duncan

Centre will help survivors of residential schools

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Saltair man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact they recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

Fallout has continued, with two of the federal council’s members resigning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says re-opening B.C.’s border to the U.S. ‘is not in our best interest’ right now. (B.C. Government photo)
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry (B.C. Government photo)
B.C. records 113 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, four deaths

Vaccination of young people rising quickly, near 75 per cent

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and U.S President Joe Biden shake hands during their meeting at the ‘Villa la Grange’ in Geneva, Switzerland in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)
Biden says meeting with Putin not a ‘kumbaya moment’

But U.S. president asserted Russian leader is interested in improved relations, averting a Cold War

Marine biologist Rick Harbo pulls a lid from the Ladysmith harbour, which he uses to monitor the presence of native and non-native species in the Ladysmith harbour. (Cole Schisler photo)
Unidentified sponge may be the latest marine species invading Island harbour

Marine biologist finding dozens of alien species in warm-water Ladysmith Harbour, none threatening

Most Read