Photograph by Jonathan Rados
Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples says the effort to establish a number of small organized and supported tent sites for homeless people in the Cowichan Valley is going well.
The camps are designed to hold up to 12 homeless people during the COVID-19 pandemic and there are also hotel rooms being made available.
Staples says for many it’s a pleasant surprise to learn what awaits them inside the sites, and for some it’s an emotional experience.
Staple witnessed one elderly man’s eyes fill with tears as he lifted the flap and looked inside a tent at the Ladysmith camp.
She says he told her, “I just can’t believe how kind everyone is being, and how people are being so generous with me.”
However, there are some who say they feel they’re being left behind.
One homeless man sent an email to the Mayor of Duncan’s official email address to say that he’d fallen through the cracks.
Staples says after reading the email she sought out community service providers to learn more about the situation.
She discovered that getting everyone what they need is a challenge.
Staples concedes, “we know that they’re not great options, that there isn’t enough for everyone.”
She says outreach workers have developed a system based on their work in the community to determine the most appropriate options for each person.
When it comes to the assignment of the hotel rooms, Staples says there are only so many rooms, “that are funded and available for people and there is an assessment process that people have to go through in order to be able to access those rooms.”
With the tent sites and hotel rooms now available to temporarily house vulnerable people during the pandemic, Staples says the next step is to get on with phase two, which involves creating more stable housing with support services.
“The work that we have to do next is to work with the province to establish what is needed for our community.”
The mayor says there are presently two more camps being set up in the region as part of the Cowichan Vulnerable People task force plan, which is jointly funded by the Rapid Relief fund set up by the Victoria Foundation and BC Housing.