Warmland Shelter in North Cowichan causes unsafe neighbourhood

We endured tents, people, filth and even a rat infestation.

Warmland Shelter in North Cowichan causes unsafe neighbourhood

The Warmland Shelter in North Cowichan has the residents of Lewis Street and York Road living in terror.

Ten years ago the government put this shelter into our residential area and it was to be a transitional housing location for people on government programs.

It existed invisible here in this neighborhood until one of the managers became ambitious and took on more programs and moved in more people to handle these programs. This was not the original plan and life in our neighborhood became pure hell.

We endured tents, people, filth and even a rat infestation. The North Cowichan bylaw put up fences on the north side of our street to stop camping but bylaws were not enforced. Bylaws about camping, loitering and vagrancy. The police ignored cases of assault and threatening of residents by this group invading our street. Nothing is safe if it isn’t nailed down it is stolen. People break into our cars and sleep in flowerbeds. The area of sidewalk in front of this shelter was not fenced and Warmland extended programs designed for residents to the people on the street and this encouraged them to stay living there.

These people get a wakeup call from police or bylaw between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. each morning. They roll up bedding, pack up luggage and go and store it inside Warmland. They get fed and leave to wander for the day to collect drugs and steal to support their habits. Our neighbourhood is littered with stolen bike parts.

In discussions with the CAO of the CMHA-Cowichan Valley Branch which runs this shelter for the CMHA with funding from BC Housing, it is apparent that they are fully aware of the 800 families in this area living in terror and frightened to leave their homes. In the past two weeks alone there have been two stabbings, a first responder assaulted by a street person with HIV and a gun incident requiring a heavy police response.

Letters written to the Health minister and the premier and the Public Safety minister have been unanswered. One letter sent to the minister of Housing was answered two months later by the CEO of BC Housing and ignored the real issue and politically wrote it off to the homeless situation during this pandemic.

Now Island Health is moving the three times failed “shoot up centre” across the street from Warmland shelter and they have installed a methadone treatment office in a building next door to this shelter. This duplicates the programs at Warmland and spends money three times on the same programs, not counting the duplicated staff and lease costs — oh well, tax dollars and missorganization.

By every appearance the vulnerable in this province, seniors, (of the 800 families in this area 85 per cent are seniors) are not being looked after but ignored, contrary to the daily TV statements of the Health Minister and Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Our lives here are pure hell. People should not have to live in fear. Two stabbings, a gun incident and a first responder assaulted, all too much along with the daily filth and gatherings of people on the street remaining here. Also Island Health moving all its centres here, duplicating and complicating the already existing problem that they all acknowledge knowing about.

There must be other places to take the overflow from this shelter, the admission by this shelter’s management that they are fully aware of what they are doing to our resident seniors and their lack of empathy is unsettling. The buck passing by the town — police and government — is sickening and the apparent moving duplicated service facilities here to this corner says it all.

Well maybe somebody should develop an emergency program for us seniors and families here and quick. Our children and seniors do not have to be exposed to this danger. Would you want your senior mom or dad or your children to have to walk or live on this street or area?

This has been like this for over three years now and it isn’t caused by the pandemic. We rely on these organizations, police and town authorities, to not allow this in their efforts to obtain funding from the federal government. Our thousands of complaint calls to authorities are used, in my opinion, to show the need for more funding. Shame on them.

Life as a resident here is dangerous beyond reason. You cannot brag about helping some people by creating another, bigger problem of putting the lives of over 800 families in life-threatening danger. This is a public safety issue. Same as government saw in Vancouver and Victoria, but they are blind to us.

Larry Woodruff

Lewis Street, North Cowichan


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