A community advisory committee is helping to foster a peaceful co-existence in the Courtenay neighbourhood where The Junction and Kiwanis Village for seniors are both located.
The Junction is a supportive housing program for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. The John Howard Society of North Island (JHSNI) operates the 46-suite complex at 988 Eighth St., across from Kiwanis. Staff are trained in trauma-informed practice and non-violent intervention.
“Our goal is to support individuals to maintain housing over time,” Junction program manager Natalie Meredith said in a Sept. 21 presentation to Courtenay council.
At a meeting in June, council listened to a number of impact statements from residents who felt the neighbourhood had deteriorated since the complex opened last year. Residents had been feeling unsafe, and unheard. Some were fed up with noise, garbage, yelling and drug use.
Coun. Manno Theos, noting the nearby Salvation Army shelter and the CV Recovery Centre, said The Junction is one more addition that might have added to a level of discomfort in the lives of area residents.
“Truthfully, maybe having The Junction in that area, in hindsight, wasn’t the right spot considering everything else in that area,” he said at the most recent meeting. “It seems to be piled onto them. It’s hard to dispute that.”
The advisory committee, formed within two months of The Junction’s opening, has responded to concerns and issues of neighbours. For instance, Junction residents have helped clean up garbage and needles in the area. Efforts have also been made to mitigate noise and to report suspicious vehicles.
“We do really care about the neighbourhood and the well-being of Kiwanis residents,” Meredith said. “Not everyone has negative feelings or experiences of The Junction. I’ve received emails of support from a couple who live close to us on Menzies. They frequently walk in the neighbourhood, are not fearful, and have positive interactions with our residents.”
She also noted a woman who said noise and other issues have decreased since the facility opened.
Theos commended the JHSNI for giving serious consideration to concerns of neighbours.
“We’ve asked a lot of this neighbourhood,” Coun. Doug Hillian said. “I hope we can continue to work together and continue to provide this valuable service.”
Between April 1, 2019 and Sept. 11, 2020, The Junction has provided housing for 73 individuals. Of these, 30 have been discharged from the program, and 14 have moved on to other housing or decided the program was not a fit for their lifestyle. Six individuals have died — one from an overdose during COVID-19 emergency protocols. Ten individuals have been discharged to homelessness due to aggressive or violent behaviour, and/or drug dealing.
Heidi Hartman, regional director of BC Housing, said 62 per cent of Junction residents are between 50 and 69 years — significantly higher than other communities.