A couple of visitors enjoy the opening of the Connect Warming Centre in downtown Courtenay. File photo

Courtenay council praises warming centre for service

The Connect Warming Centre will continue to operate at 685 Cliffe Ave. in downtown Courtenay until the end of September, as approved by council June 29.

The Warming Centre has been a resource for vulnerable members of the community since opening its doors Jan. 16. Some people have been visiting on a daily basis.

The City had originally entered into an agreement with the Comox Valley Transition Society — a member agency of the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness – to operate the centre from Jan. 13 to March 31.

“The space has become an anchor and reliable space for people to return to for services, information, and a sense of community during these uncertain times,” coalition co-ordinator Andrea Cupelli said.

Since the onset of COVID-19, and the closure of many downtown services, she said the centre has “pivoted to respond to the needs of and to protect our most vulnerable populations.”

The hours of operation have expanded to seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“I’ve heard positive comments from the business community about the impact of the centre from their perspective,” Coun. Doug Hillian said.

Coun. Melanie McCollum acknowledged the efforts of the coalition to initiate the warming centre, which she feels has been an important service to the community at large, to downtown businesses and to individuals who live downtown.

“I think it’s really important that this continues,” she said. “I think it would be difficult for us to go back to how it was before we had this option.”

Mayor Bob Wells concurs that most, if not all, of the feedback he has received about the centre has been positive.

With strict health and physical distancing measures in place, Connect offers COVID-19 symptom screening and education, a washroom, hand hygiene, cell phone charging, access to wi-fi, coffee, and hygiene supplies such as soap, hand sanitizer and masks. Staff members are available to help visitors fill out forms, and to offer referrals and access to living supports.

Through a partnership with the Comox Valley division of Family Practice’s Vulnerable Populations Working group, the coalition now has a physician attending Connect on a regular basis, assisting people on-site. Cupelli said 20 to 40 individuals continue to access services at Connect each day.

By the end of September, City staff will provide council with a report about the options and implications of entering into a one-year lease agreement with the coalition.

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