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Duncan turns down mobile emergency shelter for women

New strategies being explored
City of Duncan turns down mobile emergency shelter for women. (File photo)

The latest effort to set up an emergency shelter for women in Duncan has failed.

Duncan council voted against a motion put forward by Coun. Roger Bruce at its committee of the whole meeting on Oct. 1 that would have seen a mobile shelter for women set up in the city this winter.

Bruce was the only council member who voted for the proposal.

Bruce said he suggested that the city build its own mobile unit or upgrade an existing one owned by the Town of Campbell River, at an estimated cost of approximately $30,000, at the meeting, but the rest of council was not interested.

“Duncan council discussed a motion to go back to the province and look for funding at the meeting,” Bruce said.

“A good idea and an old idea, but not an idea that will help for this winter.”

After facing opposition from many neighbours, Duncan’s city council turned down an application for a temporary emergency shelter for women at 540 Cairnsmore St., that would have been run by the Cowichan Women Against Violence organization, last month.


Last year, an extreme weather shelter for women that was to be situated at the closed Charles Hoey School was also cancelled after School District 79, which owns the building, pulled its support after the plan faced a backlash from the neighbourhood.


As part of his motion at Monday’s meeting, Bruce also suggested that the mobile shelter that he was advocating for be set up in the parking lot of the Duncan United Church, which would also look after its operations.

But Keith Simmonds, a minister at the church and a member of the Cowichan Coalition to Address Homelessness and Affordable Housing, said last week that the city had not approached the church about setting up a mobile shelter in the church’s parking lot.

He also said at the time that the church doesn’t have showers or other amenities that a shelter would require, so it would be better placed next to a fire hall or another facility with these things already in place.

After Monday’s meeting, Simmonds said the coalition is still considering options for a shelter for women this winter somewhere in the Valley, and Duncan isn’t the only jurisdiction where one could be set up.

He said discussions with the Municipality of North Cowichan to establish a shelter have been much more positive.

“The staff in the City of Duncan have been very helpful with the process but, other than Roger Bruce, none of the politicians really engaged with us,” Simmonds said.

“We have working relationships with both the elected officials and staff in North Cowichan, but we’re limited as to where we could place a shelter in a proper location.”

Duncan councillor Sharon Jackson said she voted against bringing in a mobile unit to serve as an emergency shelter because none were immediately available from Campbell River, which Bruce was suggesting, the incidences of black mould in those mobile units that were used by that town for shelters, and the fact it would cost $30,000 to refurbish a mobile unit.

“As well, it came as a complete surprise to Keith Simmonds that the motion called for the church parking lot to be used to locate the shelter,” Jackson said.

“I’m not so much opposed to a mobile emergency shelter, but it’s just not workable. As well, (North Cowichan Mayor) Jon Lefebure said he has a couple of buildings in mind to house the shelter.”

But Jackson said she’d be surprised if either municipality moved forward with a shelter before the municipal elections on Oct. 20.

“All the present members of both councils are currently pounding the streets during the election campaign, as well as looking after the day-to-day business of Duncan and North Cowichan,” she said. “But I’m confident a shelter will move forward somewhere after the elections.”

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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.
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