If a question on the ballot at the municipal election is any indication, then it appears the Comox Valley cares about the homeless.
In a non-binding question at the Nov. 15 election, voters were asked how much annual property tax they would be willing to pay to reduce homelessness. They were given three options: nothing, up to $5 or up to $10 for a home assessed at $300,000. The latter garnered the most votes.
“Obviously they want to see some change in this area,” Shanyn Simcoe said in a Tuesday presentation to the regional district board.
More than 10,000 voters supported the $5 or $10 option, she noted.
“These are very encouraging results.”
Simcoe is an RN and a member of the Association of Registered Nurses of B.C. — Comox Valley Network. The group is asking the CVRD to implement a tax to reduce homelessness in the Valley.
The association suggests homelessness is a shared responsibility between all levels of government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), health professionals and the public.
Studies estimate costs to provide services for one homeless person are about $55,000 per year.
“The long-term solution is supportive housing,” association member Helen Boyd said. “We know improved housing leads to improved health.”
Such housing, she notes, differs from affordable or transitional housing in the sense that individuals are living at a secure place where on-site staff can engage them to address their issues.
“Obviously there’s a great need for supportive housing in the Comox Valley,” Area C director Edwin Grieve said.
He suggests the district come up with a rough figure that would be generated on an annual basis by a $5 or $10 tax.
The association recommends the following:
•Implement a housing tax;
•Proceed with the Braidwood property in Courtenay as a supportive housing initiative as quickly as possible;
•Establish a shared contingency fund or homelessness trust fund;
•Develop a five-year plan to end homelessness;
•Include homelessness and housing as standing items on CVRD, Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland council agendas.
There are an estimated 300 people in the Valley who are homeless. A further 3,000 individuals are considered to be at risk.
For more information about the Comox Valley Cares initiative, visit www.comoxvalleycares.com.