The Connect Centre, which provides support services and meets many needs of the unsheltered within the Comox Valley, will be able to stay at its Cliffe Avenue location at least until October 2022.
At the Sept. 7 Courtenay council meeting, council voted unanimously in favour to extend the license to occupy – which was set to expire on Oct. 5, 2021 – to Oct. 31, 2022.
The centre operates on behalf of the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness and the Comox Valley Transition Society, and through a letter to council, asked for the extension with an opportunity for further extensions beyond that date.
Additionally, they are also seeking support and approval for the implementation and expansion of the overnight shelter bed/mat program. They are open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Recently, the centre was awarded the Strengthening Communities grant and is able to expand the hours at Connect, staff the shower program and reinstate the additional shelter mats for the 12-month period.
Coun. David Frisch said he was really happy with the work that’s going at the centre but inquired about its location.
“I know that we talked about how this location might not be the perfect location … (can we engage) with the society so we can work out those particular issues moving forward?”
City staff noted there have been multiple discussions taking place and added there is an immediate need to resolve the license of occupation agreement prior to having larger conversations about permanent locations.
“We can start to tease out those answers and looks at options for consideration – either the warming centre and the shelter – and see what’s feasible in regards to zoning, legal costs,” explained Kate O’Connell, director of corporate support services for the city.
“This is the beginning of the discussion. Now it’s about whether and how council envisions that space and what the need is to support those experiencing homelessness in the community.”
Coun. Doug Hillian said it “makes total sense to do this” and was hopeful that council can find a different location in the future.
“As we’re seen over the summer … providing the service makes it a point of congregation … (there are) always unintended consequences and concerns for personal safety. We’ve met with the minister responsible for housing and advocated for a purpose-built shelter for this community.”