The following is the second in a series of articles to be published on behalf of the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness, prior to the Nov. 28 referendum.
Fourteen local groups with hands-on experience of tackling homelessness in the Comox Valley have united to urge people to vote “yes” in the upcoming regional district referendum on the issue.
They are pooling their project proposals and support programs into a single five-year action plan to ensure there will be more housing and necessary support services if there is a positive outcome to the vote on Nov. 28.
Member organizations making up the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness have committed to working in unison on the priority needs of people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, in the local area.
Together, the groups consider the referendum will be a watershed moment for the Valley, because people are being asked if they will agree to the establishment of a new fund, financed from property taxes, to help underpin further initiatives.
The amounts people would pay are as follows: a homeowner in Courtenay, Cumberland and rural areas B, C and A (except Denman and Hornby) with a property assessed at $300,000 would have to find an extra $6 a year.
Comox is not part of the referendum process, as the municipality already collects funds from its taxpayers for an affordable housing reserve. But the town council has pledged that if the ‘Yes’ vote wins, it will redirect money to top up the amount raised from other areas. Together all residents of the Comox Valley could create a new annual budget of $180,000, which is significant for addressing some of the key housing and support services that are needed.
Snowball effect to funding?
The Coalition to End Homelessness believes the money raised annually would help trigger even greater funding from other sources, because it would demonstrate that the citizens of the Comox Valley are serious about taking practical action on the issue rather than just talking about it — and solid evidence of community support is an important consideration for many external funders.
If the referendum passes, the money raised through taxes would not be spent by the regional district or local municipalities, but distributed directly to local non-profit societies, agencies and other groups.
Details of the most up-to-date version of that plan are available online at cvhousing.ca
Organizations involved to date are Habitat for Humanity, Dawn to Dawn, Comox Valley Transition Society, Comox Valley Lions Club, Comox Bay Care Society (Care-A-Van), AIDS Vancouver Island, the Eureka Support Society, Wachiay Friendship Centre, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Association of Registered Nurses of BC Comox Valley Network, United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island, Comox Valley Recovery Centre, St. George’s United Church, Lush Valley Food Action Society, and the Comox Valley Social Planning Society.
The coalition stresses that while safe, secure housing for the homeless is the prime need, the support services that go with that are equally important.
And while both will cost money, the beneficiaries are not only those being helped directly, but the whole community. Members of the coalition say when more people are lifted out of homelessness, or who are stopped from slipping in to that situation with help, all of society benefits through lower costs being incurred by all-too-frequent intervention that has to be provided by hospitals, mental health, social services, the police and so on.
If the “yes” votes are in the majority on Nov. 28, among first-year priorities identified by the coalition are possible funding to the Comox Valley Transition Society to provide two more transitional residential units at Amethyst House for women who have fled abusive relationships but have nowhere to go; and to Comox Valley Recovery Centre towards four new units of transitional modular housing for chemically-dependent men going through a supportive recovery program.
There’s also a proposal to set up a room at the low-rent Washington Inn apartments as a base for multiple agencies to offer essential health and other support services.