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Consultant will seek input about supportive housing in Courtenay

A social planning consultant suggests an East Courtenay house owned by the City is suited to a 30-unit supportive housing complex for the homeless, but not to a shelter.

In a Monday presentation to Courtenay council, John Jessup said the property at 810 Braidwood Rd. is too far from downtown to serve as a shelter or drop-in centre for men and women living on the street.

The City has retained Jessup to prepare a request for proposal for the project — which council has identified as its top priority.

"I'm anxious to get the ball rolling," Coun. Starr Winchester said.

Council gave Jessup the green light to begin neighbourhood consultation, which he hopes to complete by the end of March. He intends to contact nearby commercial enterprises and retailers to ensure understanding of the proposal to house low-income people in apartments. Some tenants will have mental health issues and addictions, but Jessup notes a 24/7 presence of support workers.

"I'm not saying there won't be problems," he said.

Some clients will have low to moderate problems. A few will be "hard to house."

Jessup said to expect turnover of staff and tenants in the first six to eight months of the project. Some tenants will stay as long as needed. Others, he expects, will eventually move on.

"You will see some turnover in two to three years," Jessup said.

The City purchased the Braidwood property for $264,500 after selling a trio of lots at Cliffe Avenue for $355,000. In 2010, the regional district had purchased the latter for $470,000 for emergency shelter/supportive housing purposes.

Last year, the CVRD transferred ownership of the properties to the City, along with $100,000 from the Vancouver Island Health Authority, to develop the project elsewhere. There had been an outcry from businesses in the vicinity opposed to building a homeless shelter at Eighth and Cliffe across from City Hall.

Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard agrees the Braidwood property is not an ideal shelter location, but says shelters are a necessary part of the housing continuum.

Next to establishing supportive housing for homeless men and women, Jessup feels a close second priority should be second-stage housing for women and children fleeing domestic violence, or homeless women experiencing violence on the street.

Council authorized Jessup to establish a working group consisting of himself and various officials to issue a request for proposal to non-profit housing providers on the Island.

Council approved a total of six recommendations from Jessup, who will negotiate with BC Housing about municipal contributions and committing BC Housing to a unit allocation to the project. Before negotiating, the City will undertake various surveys and an environmental assessment to determine the extent of liability. Jessup and city officials will explore how to forgive and recover development fees and charges.

In addition, council supports Jessup's voluntary services to help the Comox Valley Transition Society secure a site for women fleeing violence.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

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