Local leaders are hoping that the Cowichan Valley’s many voices raised together in asking for the help of the entire region to solve two of the Cowichan Valley’s most pressing issues, the housing and opioid crises, will attract action and funding from senior governments.
Seven of the community’s most prominent politicians issued a joint plea on June 27, encouraging members of the community to write to both the provincial and federal governments and asking them to demand help.
Cowichan Tribes chief William Seymour, MP Alistair MacGregor, MLA Sonia Furstenau, Duncan mayor Michelle Staples and North Cowichan mayor Al Siebring, joined CVRD chair Ian Morrison and, School Board chair Candace Spilsbury in the request.
“We need everyone who lives in the region to reach out to the province and let them know we need support here,” Staples said, adding the City of Duncan and the more populated parts of North Cowichan and Tribes land see the bulk of those dealing with the homelessness, mental health and addiction issues because it’s the region’s core and that’s where the services are.
The solution is something citizens from all corners need to be in on.
“They are our neighbours, our children and people who came here, like so many of us, to make a home and live their life in a beautiful place,” she said. “Things don’t always end up the way we plan and people’s circumstances change and their lives are impacted in ways we cannot understand and should not judge.”
Even so, she said, the impact of the ongoing crises are weighing on everyone.
“…changes to our personal safety, people’s inability to enjoy where they live and the impacts felt to businesses and community members are compounding every day,” Staples noted.
The meeting of the group of seven leaders was the second such and a third is slated for August.
“Local leadership, including representatives from all levels of government, coming together to work on solutions to these crises in our community is a clear indication of the serious need for action,” MacGregor said. “It is my hope that our federal government, in particular, will respond in a sincere and worthwhile way to this demonstration of a united community front and provide the entire spectrum of policy changes and resources necessary to meaningfully help members of our community suffering from housing, mental health, and addictions problems.”
Local leaders have talked about low barrier shelter, more funding for staff, security, and neighbourhood support for the services that already exist, such as Warmland House, the overdose prevention site and the needle pick up program. But more is needed. More mental health and addictions services are needed, as are treatment centres, follow up services, a youth shelter, and affordable supportive housing for seniors and the list goes on.
Current service providers are not just strapped for cash but are exhausted and the uphill battle continues to grow.
“Everyone and every service is overwhelmed with need, underfunded and under attack. Exhausted service providers need community members to ask what they can do and how they can help,” said a press release issued by the leadership coalition.
“I acknowledge there’s considerable community frustration over both the housing situation and the mental health and opioid crisis,” Siebring said. “Local governments and Cowichan Tribes simply don’t have the capacity to deal with these things on our own. We have done as much as we can to move this file forward with the federal and provincial ministries in terms of trying to secure funding for new initiatives, and now it’s time for those ministries to hear directly from the community on how critical it is that they step up to help.”