Isabel Poulin |

Comox Valley organization hopes to pilot seasonal warming centre

The Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness has appealed to Courtenay council to find a City-owned building to pilot a seasonal warming centre during the cold-weather months.

A centre would provide a space for marginalized individuals during the day, and relieve pressure from informal warming spaces such as the library and Lewis Centre.

The coalition hopes to use a space for six to seven months — as is — without the need for upgrades or renovations. To staff the space, the group has applied for a SPARC BC (Social Planning and Research Council) grant to cover wages of two co-ordinators to be onsite to ensure safety and proper behaviour.

During the temporary period, the coalition suggests moving the Connect drop-in program to the warming centre to provide respite to the Courtenay library.

The coalition notes the forecast calls for an unusually cold, wet winter. Considering a growth in the local homeless population, existing social services won’t suffice to keep people safe and out of the cold during the day.

Coun. Melanie McCollum recalled the City not having a suitable property, without need for upgrades, to offer the service.

“Is there some kind of compromise that you can see, or is this doable?” McCollum asked CAO David Allen at the Oct. 7 meeting.

Allen suggested that City staff, in conjunction with the coalition, could investigate and identify potential properties, and report back to council. McCollum’s motion to act on this idea carried unanimously.

“Obviously it’s getting cold, so we’d have to look into it fairly soon and report back as soon as we can,” Allen said.

The coalition works as a collective to plan, co-ordinate, recommend and implement community responses to homelessness. Its member agencies include the Comox Valley Transition Society, Dawn to Dawn, the Wachiay Friendship Centre, the United Way and the Salvation Army.

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