Transition society appeals to Courtenay for help with women's housing
The Comox Valley Transition Society (CVTS) says the Valley needs housing for women — and it wants a partnership with Courtenay to make the idea reality.
Society executive director Heather Ney showed council a video outlining the struggles abused women face when trying to find housing for themselves and their children after leaving their spouses.
"On behalf of the transition society, I'm asking that you partner, that the City of Courtenay partner with us to make that happen," Ney said after the video finished. "We are asking that you partner with us by providing the asset of the Cliffe Avenue site … and the funds available in the amenity fund for the purpose of acquiring suitable property to build second-stage housing."
She also asked for permit fees and development cost charges to be waived and for a property tax exemption.
The site in the 800 block of Cliffe Avenue was bought by the Comox Valley Regional District for the purpose of an emergency shelter/supportive housing purposes in 2010, but the land and $100,000 from the Vancouver Island Health Authority was transferred to Courtenay in the fall after City council made it clear it did not want a homeless shelter in its downtown core. Courtenay could sell that land and use the funds to purchase another property in a location it finds more suitable.
Ney noted the society has its eye on the proceeds from the property if it's sold in the future.
"I have in my mind that you would sell that piece of property and we would use the proceeds to purchase another suitable piece of property because I don't think that's ideal," said Ney when speaking about the downtown location of the Cliffe Avenue site. "In a perfect world that property (for second-stage transitional housing) would be near a school, near grocery shopping and a bus route."
According to a CVTS report, the society proposes a 32-unit apartment building with a mix of studio and one- to four-bedroom units to accommodate a variety of women including old and young, and women with mental disabilities as well as single women and women with children.
She also pointed out a 27-unit second stage transitional housing building for women and children is set to open in May in Campbell River, and this project was made possible thanks to a land donation from the City of Campbell River, as well as some ongoing operational funding from the City.
Ney said the CVTS also plans to seek a partnership with BC Housing, and she has networked with some BC Housing staff, but the society plans to formerly seek that partnership after property is secured.
According to the CVTS report, the society's Lilli House — which is an emergency transition house for women and children — was full 181 nights in 2012, and staff had to put women up in hotels due to fullness more times in 2012 than any other year.
Coun. Starr Winchester said she was really touched by the presentation and suggested Ney also present at a Comox Valley Regional District committee of the whole meeting.
Mayor Larry Jangula thanked Ney for her proposal, noting an an answer would not be available right away. He also pointed out a number of groups are interested in the site or proceeds from the sale of the site.
"We have a representative of the Salvation Army here today who would like a new shelter built. We have other groups who have proposed the fact that we really need SROs or single residential occupancy homes," said Jangula. "There's a lot of requests for this property and for the proceeds for this property."
He also presented Ney with a $3,500 contribution toward the annual Purple Ribbon Campaign, which raises awareness about violence against women and will happen this spring.