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Pay request for ‘situation table’ met coldly by Comox Valley district board

Comox Valley’s new project to support “high risk” individuals is asking for tax dollars
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The board of elected officials at Comox Valley Regional District pushed back against a request that local tax dollars be used for a new position that supports “high risk” individuals. The final decision will come at a later meeting. (Connor McDowell/Comox Valley Record)

A request that Comox Valley tax dollars pay the wages and travel fees for a new job that aims to assist “people experiencing high risk” was met coldly by the district board on Tuesday night.

The board was presented with a request to provide funding for the co-ordinator role of a new project called Comox Valley’s “situation table.” The request for $17,173 was met with resistance due to concerns that Comox Valley was catching someone else’s bill.

“(Convince me) why local government should pay to bring a variety of provincially funded agencies together to talk to each other, to more effectively work together,” said director Doug Hillian. “I just still don’t understand that. In my view it should in fact be coming from those provincial agencies.”

Director Wendy Morin agreed, and said she was surprised.

“When this was introduced, there was never ever any conversation about the city or local government funding it,” said Morin. “It’s not another thing that should be down-loaded onto local government. Because we have a long list.”

Several directors said their issue was it seemed that the province created a job and then passed the expenses to Comox Valley. After launching the table, the province less than two years later would keep funding the table in a way that didn’t cover the cost of the co-ordinator.

“This should be fully funded by the people who set it up,” said director and board chair Will Cole-Hamilton. “You shouldn’t have to be coming out to ask for support.”

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The funding ask consisted of a $45-an-hour wage for the situation table co-ordinator working roughly seven hours a week, plus travel fees at $495 for the year, miscellaneous expenses at $375 for the year, and administrative costs at $1,561.

Comox Valley could decide to operate the table without a co-ordinator, and save the yearly $17,173. Situation table co-ordinator Danya Forsgren at the meeting told the board that some communities operate that way — however that their service suffers for it.

There was no indication whether the table would return next year to request more funding for the 2026 year and beyond.

The Comox Valley has seen similar funding models becoming ongoing costs to the community. In 2015, residents voted in Bylaw No. 389 to fund services based on a five-year action plan to end homelessness. Through the annual ongoing tax, residents have now paid more than $1.9 million to a fund for associated non-profits in the community.

The co-ordinator role for the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness was supported in an amount of $30,000 last year via the funds.

For the situation table co-ordinator role the board indicated they would like to investigate whether funding could be sought elsewhere, instead of through district tax dollars. The decision on whether to approve the funding for the role will come at a later meeting.

Forsgren explained at the board meeting that the situation table is “a collaborative meeting space for different sectors to come together and support individuals in our community who are experiencing very high risk near-crisis, harm or severe harm.”

The goal of the table is to deliver support to people in Comox Valley in a short time frame, within roughly 24-48 hours. The work targets people during high-risk times that they might experience traumatic events. Successful work can help the person avoid the situation, handle it better, and through this reduce the demand for emergency and police services.

The table gathers people from several relevant sectors, such as public safety and social services. This type of collaboration to provide service is uncommon without the table, said Forsgren, and the collaboration resulting from the table leads to unique service in the community.

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