We’ve been hearing lots of rumours these days about homeless people from other communities being bused into the Cowichan Valley.
According to the rumours, the homeless are being sent here so that the Valley’s already overtaxed social services for the needy will take care of them, offloading that responsibility from the communities from which they came.
There’s no doubt that there are a lot of homeless people on our streets these days, with many caught up in the ongoing opioid crisis, which has taken dozens of lives in the Valley alone over the past few years.
Others are just simply people who are struggling financially and can’t come up with the funds for the skyrocketing rents these days due to a chronic shortage of affordable housing.
But while there’s no doubt that some homeless people from other areas drift here because the weather is more conducive for those who are living outdoors, and there’s a lot of places to hide their tents in the forests in the Valley, there’s not one iota of proof that I’ve come across to date that confirms that any bus loads of homeless people have been, or are being, sent to the Valley from elsewhere.
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring told me that he has heard the rumours, even that RCMP detachments from other areas of the Island were responsible for the bus convoys.
He said he began checking with some of the local social agencies and police to see if there was any truth to these stories and was told by all of them that they were just myths.
Ian Morrison, chairman of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said that, judging from what he has learned, the rumours are a hoax.
Inspector Chris Bear, head of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, also spoke to the issue while giving his quarterly report to North Cowichan’s council last week.
Bear also said there was no truth to the rumours.
He said that the Valley, like many communities all over the Island and the rest of B.C., is having to deal with increasing homeless issues, and while a number of the homeless people may have come here on their own from elsewhere, there are no facts behind the rumours that large numbers are being purposely bused here.
I wondered where such rumours originated.
How they are spread is simple enough to understand; social media makes mountains out of molehills every day and tends to “muddy up” what is real news and what isn’t.
There was a story from Chilliwack in March in which two patients who were homeless were transported by taxi to a homeless shelter in that community after being discharged from Surrey Memorial Hospital.
Officials from Fraser Heath said they would look into the issue.
The Columbia Valley Pioneer, a sister Black Press Paper, reported at the time that rumours were rife in Chilliwack about large numbers of homeless people being bused or taxied there from other areas.
“Chilliwack already has a very high population of homeless people per capita and we have been working hard to advocate for shelter and housing and, in many cases, have provided financial support,” said Ken Popove, Chilliwack’s mayor, to the newspaper.
“Our residents know their tax dollars are going to support significant housing first projects in our community and feel this investment should not be used to make Chilliwack a destination for homeless people from throughout the region.”
Yes, there are a lot of homeless people in the Valley these days; but residents should not confuse fact with fiction.
It does little to help with the problem.