Several camps are now operating in the Cowichan Valley to shelter homeless people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As they prepare to present their plan for phase-2 of the COVID-19 Cowichan Valley Task Force for Vulnerable Populations’ housing strategy, Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples and John Horn of BC Housing say the small tenting sites are a good learning experience.

John Horn says the camps give them a chance to study and work with individuals with the help of outreach workers to better understand the needs of each person in the camps.

Horn says they want to handle every individual according to their abilities and the camps provide an opportunity to see what kind of housing and services should be trying to put in place as the next step.

Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples says the experience will help as the Cowichan Leadership group moves forward with the second phase of the plan.

The next phase involves creating long term housing with wrap-around services to deal with the basic issues that lead to homeless, such as addiction issues and mental health challenges.

Staples says, “we don’t want to go back to the way things were.”

She says the present system is not working for anyone and the camps and hotel rooms currently being used for the pandemic are only an “interim step.”

Staples says they want to build on what they have now, “so people don’t have to go back on the streets.”