Sam Franey has steered clear of pills and booze, choosing instead to focus his attention on helping others in their recovery process.
The 36-year-old Comox Valley man has started a non-profit society called Comox Valley Unhoused, a project residency operating out of the Comox Valley Art Gallery in downtown Courtenay. He’s also a peer support worker on a CVAG project dubbed Walk With Me, which explores the overdose crisis.
“It’s kind of amazing,” Franey said. “I moved here last year, and I was still on the streets and still addicted to drugs, and had nothing to come here with. In a year, I’ve got myself clean, I’m housed, I’ve got a non-profit…It comes from five years on the streets.”
The purpose of Comox Valley Unhoused is to educate, and to house and rehabilitate people on the streets, and people with mental health and addiction issues. It also aims to house low-income seniors, and anyone at risk of losing their house.
The program is still in the conceptual stage. Eventually, Franey hopes to create a tiny home community.
“It’s created by people on the streets, and what would work for us and what won’t, and how best to empower us, to create a different life — to work hard and create a positive life for ourselves,” Franey said. “You build a program specifically for a person and their needs, and as they go through the program, they plan out and build their own tiny house. They stay on as a group, and build more for low-income seniors and others.
“When the program is done, you offer them a spot in a tiny house community on the same property where they all live together, and support one another and still have access to the same help they had in the program,” Franey added.
Along with housing, the program provides support in terms of post-secondary education, growing food and cooking healthy meals — among other positive directions people choose to steer their life.
Franey is the executive director of CV Unhoused, which has a board of directors. Sharon Karsten, the gallery’s director of research and community development, is a board member.
“Too many people underestimate the importance of housing in harm reduction,” Karsten said. “The Unhoused society uncovers this potential, and empowers people through community solidarity to create ownership over their own homes — and their own futures.”
For more information about Comox Valley Unhoused, contact Franey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-863-7157.