For the past five years, the innovative Care-A-Van – a mobile outreach clinic serving individuals who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness – has been on the streets of the Comox Valley.
To date, its volunteers have provided healthcare services to over 850 individuals at no cost. As we celebrate the fifth year of this success, it is fitting to look back at its brief history.
The Care-A-Van was the brain child of nurse and mental health therapist Helen Boyd, who approached Barry Willis. He recounts the early stages of the project:
“I was working one day at Sunwest Auto Centre when I was paged that there was a woman in the showroom who wanted to talk with me,” said Barry.
“This would be my first meeting with Helen. She told me of her vision to help our community’s homeless population by creating a mobile healthcare clinic for them. Honestly, I thought this was a crazy idea but I listened. She wanted to convert a van into a mobile clinic and she wanted me to help her do it. Little did I know the tenacity of this woman! Eventually, I agreed to help bring her vision to life.”
And so it began…
The Care-A-Van itself was built and designed by the mechanics of Sunwest Auto and Sunwest RV. The work of refurbishing a 1987, 27-foot mobile home was done in the evening hours to renovate the van into the mobile outreach unit it is today. The mechanical work began in December of 2008, and less than five months later – April 27, 2009 – the Care-A-Van was on the streets of the Comox Valley.
Helen says she would not have gotten the program up and running if it had not been for the generous contribution of volunteer professionals: 14 nurses, five doctors, two pharmacists, an optometrist, three dentists and the seven drivers who donate their time.
The Care-A-Van program was presented last month the Volunteer Community Impact Award for health. This is the fifth award to be granted to members of the program in as many years. It speaks to the program’s leading role in best practices for services to homeless populations. The Care-A-Van is also currently featured nationally in the Canadian Nursing Association website, in Calgary’s Metro News and is an example of nurses leading the force for change.
In April 2012, the Comox Bay Care Society was created to oversee the ongoing work of the Care-A-Van. It is a registered charity with Revenue Canada.
The board members of the Comox Bay Care Society wish to acknowledge the 40 Care-A-Van volunteers for their ongoing dedication.
“We also wish to express our appreciation to the clients who, though short on resources, are long on humanity and make us feel that we are truly making the community a little better every time we go out,” said Helen.
For more information on the Care-A-Van, visit www.comoxbaycare.org.