Courtenay council asking for public consultation about homeless shelter

Courtenay council is hoping to engage the public more in the hopes of finding solutions to helping homeless and financially vulnerable members of the community.

Coun. Manno Theos proposed Monday that the city ask the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) to reopen the public consultation process for 90 days, engaging the public through a series of town hall meetings to create community-driven solutions through a comprehensive approach.

"Having been to other communities that have dealt with similar issues, I was told there was significant public consultation," he said. "I truly believe over a 90-day period of time, we may learn a tremendous amount."

After much discussion, council agreed on an amended version of Theos' proposal, agreeing to ask for a town hall-style public consultation meeting to engage the public, without including a timeline.

Council recently voted to ask the CVRD to reopen the search for a "more suitable" site for the proposed homeless shelter than the one purchased on Cliffe Avenue while affirming its support for assisting the homeless.

Theos insisted his proposal had less to do with one particular site and more to do with a need for more consultation in general, and he felt the CVRD had to take a lead role.

"The most important factor is what I'm hearing on the streets — almost bar none, people are saying they want to have more input," he said. "How can we tap into some solutions here and use our public, who really want to get engaged?"

Theos wanted to tackle more than just homelessness, and he felt it had to be dealt with as a whole Comox Valley issue.

"More than ever, I feel confident that having public consultation is vital," he said.

Coun. Larry Jangula agreed with Theos that there hasn't been enough public consultation on the shelter site issue.

"The public has had no real say in this," he said. "This is an issue that has really gotten the public's pulse ... to me, this whole thing is just a hodgepodge, and the public wants a say in it."

Coun. Doug Hillian suggested people can bring their ideas forward to the housing task force anytime.

"The location of the shelter is the issue that has caused the controversy," he said. "I think the motion to ask for public consultation is premature because we don't yet know if the CVRD will accede to the city's request to relaunch the property search."

The CVRD board was to discuss reopening the search for a site for the homeless shelter Tuesday during its committee of the whole meeting.

Mayor Greg Phelps told council he was pretty sure the CVRD would bounce this public consultation request back to Courtenay council.

"One of the problems is we have no proposal at the moment," he noted. "We simply own a piece of dirt. It makes it really difficult to take it to the next step."

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