A forum on affordable housing and homelessness Wednesday at the Filberg Centre provided an opportunity to forge relationships and connect people who are helping to address housing issues, and the overall health and well-being of the community.
Hosted by the Comox Valley Housing Task Force, the event helped to “put the puzzle together in innovative ways,” chair Ronna-Rae Leonard said.
“It’s a positive story about fitting into a community. It was supposed to be a day of conversation and building solutions, and I think we definitely achieved that.”
The forum incorporated an Expo-type setting with booths on one side of the hall, and an area for panel discussions involving speakers from Island Health (formerly Vancouver Island Health Authority), Pacifica Housing, BC Housing and other agencies. Topics included capacity-building, the Housing First concept and affordable housing options.
“The comments that people were making were very positive, very constructive,” Leonard said. “People from out of town were eager to keep connected, and continue that conversation about looking at the broader implications and what we can do together.”
The speaker list included Kevin Albers of the M’akola Housing Society, which aims to provide affordable homes primarily for aboriginal people on Vancouver Island.
While comprising just four to five per cent of the Comox Valley population, estimates indicate aboriginal people represent a disproportionate 40 to 50 per cent of the local homeless population, says task force vice-chair Roger Kishi.
“A lot of that is people who are trying to find stable housing. Some are couch-surfing,” Kishi said. “It all fits in with … poverty issues and social issues of First Nations people.”
Several homeless individuals attended the forum, as did residents in the Braidwood Road neighbourhood where the City of Courtenay has purchased a property to possibly establish affordable, supportive housing.
“That begins the story for sure,” Leonard said about the property at 810 Braidwood Rd.
Videos of panel discussions will be posted at www.cvhousing.ca by November.