Care-A-Van operators hoping for some homelessness funding

The Care-A-Van of the Comox Bay Care Society eagerly waits to respond to the request for proposals by the Comox Valley Regional District.

The Care-A-Van of the Comox Bay Care Society eagerly waits to respond to the request for proposals to be issued by the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) for the disbursement of funds to address homelessness.

Although undeniably a path out of homelessness must address housing issues, the need for supportive services is just as crucial. The Care-A-Van presents an opportunity for the CVRD to fund a program that epitomizes the notion of contributing to healthy communities particularly for individuals who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness in the Comox Valley.

For the past three years, the Care-A-Van and its fleet of 33 volunteer healthcare professionals and outreach drivers provided services to over 600 individuals who are living in either absolute homelessness or on the verge of it.

These support services are available free of charge to individuals in scattered housing areas in the Valley such as Maple Pool Campground where individuals are often living on the margins of poverty.

The Care-A-Van provides healthcare services, dental, optometry and recently has an overwhelming response to their newest program to help quit smoking that not only enhances health but also puts more money in the pockets of those with very limited income.

Although the lack of affordable housing is one of the components that contributes to the problem of homelessness, it is all too often the physical and psychological needs of this population that have not been met and are the precursors to homelessness.

Individuals seen aboard the Care-A-Van often describe the breakup of a relationship, the loss of employment and then of their housing, the spiralling course through depression and at times addiction that led them eventually to the streets. None of them set out to be there purposely.

Given the limited degree of affordable housing in the Valley during the early years of the Care-A-Van, it is often the supportive services offered by the van and fellow agencies that helped some individuals move from a state of absolute homelessness to one of being securely housed.

The example of a man for whom an admission to a rehabilitation centre to overcome his alcoholism was facilitated by the Care-A-Van. Once his sobriety established and linked to a skillful mental health and addiction counsellor, the next step was to attend to his dental needs as this was definitely an impediment to finding employment.

With much advocacy, the dental work required was done and was followed by obtaining a rewarding job. He is now living in secure market housing and beams with pride at his accomplishments. His gratitude is tangible as he has broken the cycle of homelessness with appropriate support services.

Over the years, 13 pregnant women have been helped via the Care-A-Van, some of them escaping abusive relationships. Without resources of their own, links to family physicians were made, transportation to ultrasounds offered and much more.

The strong collaborative work relationship of the Care-A-Van with fellow agencies has been invaluable to the success of the program. The youngest client aboard the van has been a three-year-old accompanied by his mother and the eldest an 86-year-old living alone with numerous health problems.

The Comox Bay Care Society hopes the CVRD will recognize this invaluable service for our homeless population and acknowledges that another way out of homelessness is to have strong supportive services in place that can in time lead to adequate and secure housing.

For more information, visit www.comoxbaycare.org.

— Comox Bay Care Society

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