It’s hoped that the occupants of the five temporary homeless tenting sites in the Cowichan region won’t be forced back onto the streets anytime soon.
John Horn, co-chair of the COVID-19 Vulnerable Population Cowichan Task Force, said the task force has asked BC Housing to extend funding to keep the sites in operation until the approximately 100 supportive housing units that are planned for the region for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in the Cowichan Valley are in place.
“We feel it would be better to keep them in place until the purpose-built housing is ready to be occupied,” Horn said.
“The plan is for the supportive housing units to be modular homes, and it took just three months for the modular homes in Nanaimo to be put in place, so it wouldn’t be a huge gap in time to wait until they’re ready here before we dismantle the tent sites.”
BC Housing announced in May that it would provide $172,000 to support phase one of a plan developed by the Cowichan Task Force to create temporary accommodations for the homeless in the Valley for 30 days during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and the Rapid Relief Fund, organized by the Victoria Foundation, Jawl Foundation and Times Colonist, provided an additional $220,000 for the plan.
BC Housing has extended the funding to keep the sites in place twice since then, with the current deadline scheduled for end of September.
The five tenting sites in use are the parking lot of North Cowichan’s Fuller Lake Arena, a site on Buller Street in Ladysmith, a city-owned lot on St. Julien Street in Duncan, a site on Government Street known as “The Mound” owned by Cowichan Tribes, and a location behind the Cowichan Community Centre.
The task force sees that support services and security are being provided at each site, which have a maximum of 12 people, while a number of hotel rooms in Cowichan are also being used by those who need them.
Construction is expected to begin soon on the approximately 100 supportive housing units for the homeless in the Valley, which BC Housing announced in June.
BC Housing has acquired two sites — 2983 Drinkwater Rd. in North Cowichan and 260 White Rd. in Duncan — to develop what the agency describes as “safe, secure housing with wraparound supports.”
Horn said it hasn’t all been smooth sailing at the tent sites while they have been in operation, but there have been no serious incidents so far.
“One issue we’ve been having is the accumulation of stuff that has been taking place at some of the sites,” he said. “We have to go through the sites every couple of weeks to clear them out, but that’s only a minor issue.”