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Vulnerable People Task Force Proposes Small Encampments During COVID-19 Crisis

The Cowichan Task Force for Vulnerable Populations has developed a modified plan to shelter and support homeless and precariously housed people.

It proposes the creation of small-scale outdoor tenting sites with fewer than 12 people, and not located in parks.

Hotel rooms will be provided to those who are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples says, “I recognize tenting sites are not ideal but neither is the current situation with up to 137 people in our community without access to shelter.

The BC Housing and Emergency Management BC is currently considering the plan submitted by the task force.

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The new proposal is a reworked version of one submitted by the Cowichan Task Force for Vulnerable Populations submitted in early April.

The original plan was modified and resubmitted after feedback from officials, and factoring in the staffing constraints that currently limit indoor shelter space.

The Cowichan Task Force for Vulnerable Populations says a shortage of shelter staff has been a significant hurdle to developing a response plan.

“Providing only indoor shelter spaces is not feasible due to lack of available staffing; already staff shortages have led to the closure of the Women’s Night Shelter, previously operated locally by the Cowichan Women Against Violence (CWAV) Society.”

BC Housing has given approval to set up one tent site for women displaced by the Women’s Night Shelter closure, but a location has not been chosen. Security, access to washroom, shower, and laundry facilities, health supports, and healthy food will be provided.

CWAV Executive Director Debbie Berg says, “the women we serve are looking forward to being settled in a safe and dry space where they know they will be less exposed to COVID-19.”

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She says while they can no longer allow women to come in to sleep at the shelter, the remaining staff stayed in contact, providing meals and on-going access to showers, laundry, and storage facilities.

John Horn, Executive Director of Cowichan Housing Association, says: “We have had the opportunity to discuss with BC Housing and other potential funding partners the details of our plan and the rationale for our approach.”

Horn sasy he is confident the discussions “have been productive, and we anticipate a positive outcome from BC Housing in the very near future.”

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