The priority for those who will be chosen to live in the 50 supportive housing units that are soon to be constructed in North Cowichan will be given to local residents who need the assistance, according to BC Housing.
Responding to questions about the project, which will be constructed at 2983 Drinkwater Rd., at the Municipality of North Cowichan’s council meeting on July 15, Heidi Hartman, BC Housing’s director of operations on Vancouver Island, also said part of the criteria for living in the units is that the tenants must be more than 19 years of age and are either experiencing of be at risk of being homeless.
Asked how they can be sure that those chosen to live at the site are actually from the area, Hartman said BC Housing will work with its community partners in the region to identify those being considered to live in the units, and how long they have lived here.
She said other communities on the Island that have similar facilities established have chosen different criteria on just who is considered to be a local resident.
“In Parksville, a person has to live there for at least one year to be considered, while it’s three years in Courtenay,” Hartman said.
“We rely on our community partners to determine how long an individual has lived in the area, and identify those who would be a good fit for the project.”
Construction is expected to begin this fall on approximately 100 supportive housing units for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in the Cowichan Valley.
BC Housing has acquired two sites, the one on Drinkwater Rd. in North Cowichan and also 260 White Rd. in Duncan to develop what the agency describes as “safe, secure housing with wraparound supports.”
Both facilities will consist of about 50 self-contained studio units.
Residents will be provided with 24-hour on-site staff and support services, including meal programs, life and employment skills training, health and wellness services, and opportunities for volunteer work.
The initiative is an international model that has proven successful in other parts of the world and across B.C.
Hartman said BC Housing and members of the Lookout Society, which was chosen to manage the facility in North Cowichan, will work with Island Health and other health officials in the area to ensure that much needed support systems are in place to help the residents with mental health and addiction issues.
A manager has yet to be chosen for the site on White Road.
“Once they get a roof over their heads, they start their journey to wellness,” Hartman said.
Shayne Williams, CEO of the Lookout Society which operates 14 similar initiative across the province, said one of the keys to the success of supportive housing projects like the ones that will be built in the Valley is to foster trust with the people in the community.
He said representatives from the society will join BC Housing at public consultation meetings that are being scheduled later this summer, which will be mostly online due to the health crisis.
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said that many neighbours in Parksville were up in arms when a similar project was announced for their community, but calmed down when it opened.
He asked how engaging the public helped to achieve that.
Hartman said the proponents made sure the correct information was provided to the community, and that the research on the issue supported the model.
“In Parksville, people were given the opportunity to bring their questions forward and receive the information that was needed,” she said.