After more than a year of trying to find a solution to the ongoing issue, the Cowichan Valley School District’s board of education has approved, in principal, the short-term lease of a vacant public building for a cold weather women’s shelter.
If approved by the Municipality of North Cowichan the old concession building at Cowichan Place (beside Wendy’s House) will become Cowichan Women Against Violence Society’s women’s winter weather response shelter.
“As a strong member within our community, the board of education of the Cowichan Valley School District recognizes that the challenges facing our community require collaborative response,” said board chair Candace Spilsbury. “We acknowledge that these are difficult decisions that require compromise, understanding, patience, and good will.”
Other proposed locations for an emergency shelter for women, including the old school building on Cairnsmore and one at McAdam Park, have already been quashed by protest from neighbours.
The decision to lease the facility from November of this year until March 31, 2019 came after significant deliberation and more approvals are still necessary to make the facility a reality.
CWAV needs to get a temporary use permit for a land use that is not currently captured under North Cowichan’s municipal zoning. North Cowichan will address that issue Nov. 21 at it’s regular council meeting.
“CWAV has been working hard last winter and this winter to find a solution for homeless women and we hope this time to be successful,” said CWAV executive director Debbie Berg. “It will be up to local government and communities to decide about shelter this year.”
Conscious of the potential for concerned parents, Spilsbury issued a letter to Wendy’s House (a preschool activity centre located immediately beside the proposed shelter) users.
“We recognize that the dedicated users of the Strong Start at Wendy’s House may be confused by this decision, as the old concession stand is a neighbour of Wendy’s House,” Spilsbury wrote. “We know what a special place Wendy’s is…and we can assure you the decision to approve the lease in principle was not taken lightly.”
Spilsbury noted in the letter that there would be no overlapping hours between the two facilities and there would be 24-hour staff coverage at the shelter on the Wendy’s House operating days. Moreover, CWAV has made the commitment to have shelter staff inspect and remove any refuse, within a 50-foot radius of the concession building and Wendy’s House.