The Connect Warming Centre has been operating as an emergency overnight shelter in recent weeks. File photo

The Connect Warming Centre has been operating as an emergency overnight shelter in recent weeks. File photo

Grant funds would provide urgent, temporary support to homeless in Comox Valley

At its April 13 meeting, the Comox Valley Regional District board agreed to apply to the Union of B.C. Municipalities for a $1.25 million grant to provide urgent and temporary support to unsheltered homeless populations.

COVID-19 Restart Funding for Local Governments is intended to bridge extra needs for vulnerable individuals during the pandemic.

The application is due Friday, April 16. A decision will be made this summer. If successful, the money will help expand the capacity of the day program at the Connect Warming Centre on Cliffe Avenue in Courtenay.

Funding will also help meet an increased demand for an overnight shelter — in addition to the Pidcock emergency shelter — during COVID.

“We’ve certainly — since opening Connect as a temporary shelter, which is set to end on April 15 — been turning folks away,” said Andrea Cupelli, co-ordinator of the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness.

She notes that Pidcock’s mat program for men has been at or near capacity each night.

Grant money would also be used to extend outreach services for rural residents, including those who live on Denman and Hornby islands.

“We know folks are really isolated out there, particularly during the pandemic,” Cupelli said. “So we want to connect them to outreach workers, resources and provide outreach van transportation, or whatever is needed to to get them the help that they need.”

She also noted a need for more community engagement, and training opportunities for those working on the front lines of homelessness.

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