Almost no community is immune, no matter how small. And yet solutions have proven elusive, and more than that, contentious.
Homelessness in the Cowichan Valley has been steadily growing and becoming more visible as it does.
When the pandemic began, money to get people literally off the streets started to flow from the provincial and federal coffers. Tenting, and later cabin sites were set up by the Cowichan Housing Association, the lead agency on the homeless file in the Valley, to supplement hotel rooms. Currently, 66 people are living at two cabin sites and at the Ramada Hotel in Duncan. Two supportive housing projects are also in the works, which will provide 100 units. A count from 2020 pegged Cowichan’s homeless population at 130 people, and there are now more than 270 on the waiting list for the supportive housing units.
Though the numbers tell a sobering tale, it really is a story of gaining momentum on addressing the problem. But it’s a battle that has been and continues to be uphill, and not just because of the difficulty of accessing funds. Getting the community on board with solutions has been no easy feat.
Nowhere has this been as marked as it has been in trying to find locations to run various services and build infrastructure for the homeless. People don’t want it in their neighbourhoods. And not without reason. Problematic behaviours can come part in parcel with some of those in need of assistance. But the thing is, we can’t just banish these folks to the back of beyond where they would be unable to come and go and access services, which are located in downtowns. Out of sight, out of mind won’t work.
Now, the CHA is looking for a spot to build a new Dignity Village — 46 cabins with wrap-around services. So far, they have come up empty in their search for a location.
Our communities need this. Surely we can all agree it is better to give people a supervised, warm, dry space they can call their own, than tripping over them and their belongings as they huddle on the sidewalk or shop entryway?