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Courtenay to manage grant to help the unsheltered

Closure of Connect Warming Centre a blow to the community
File photo of Connect Warming Centre on Cliffe Avenue in Courtenay.

The City of Courtenay has become the lead applicant for a federal grant to undertake activities to increase supports for vulnerable populations in the Comox Valley.

The regional district board agreed Tuesday to transfer the lead applicant from the CVRD to the city for the UBCM Strengthening Communities Services (SCS) grant project. Courtenay will manage the $1.093 million grant that was awarded to the district last year. Courtenay and Cumberland councils endorsed the motion Monday.

“The grant funding has sought to address the urgent and immediate needs of our community’s unsheltered homeless population, and the related community health and safety challenges that we continue to face in our communities related to the pandemic,” a CVRD staff report states.

An SCS project team with reps from the district, city and the CV Coalition to End Homelessness has worked with community organizations to provide funding to support increasing capacity of the Connect Warming Centre — a day program that provided a safe space for individuals experiencing homelessness — and creating additional overnight shelter space at the Community Cares Warming Centre at the Salvation Army Church.

Since the grant application was submitted early last year, the district says fiscal and operating pressures in the community have evolved and triggered an amendment process to the application. While assessing needs of the unsheltered homeless population and capacity of local service providers, it became clear that the city is well positioned to assume the role of lead applicant for the grant, and to provide management.

“The city has firsthand experience providing support and essential services to vulnerable populations in the community,” the report states.

Courtenay director Doug Hillian noted the many challenges of administering the grant.

“Hopefully we find a way forward, and hopefully we can see this project through and get support on the ground that is so badly needed,” Hillian said Tuesday.

The Comox Valley Transition Society had been operating the Connect Centre at 685 Cliffe Ave. for more than two years. The centre closed for the daytime last month due to a lack of funds.

“It’s a huge loss for the community,” said Dr. Eva Hemmerich, who worked as a physician at Connect, which provided an environment that fostered trust and relationship-building. Funding recently came in for a full-time nurse, part-time occupational therapist and part-time rehab worker, in addition to the daily physician. “Now we have nowhere to find people who are homeless.”

READ: Courtenay warming centre closes during the day

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