It was only a matter of days before a waitlist of prospective tenants had formed after a supportive housing complex opened in Courtenay in April.
The Junction, located at 988 Eighth St., contains 46 units for individuals struggling with homelessness. The John Howard Society of North Island operates the facility and provides round-the-clock services.
“The residents are generally very happy and there is evidence of improving health among many of them,” JHSNI executive director Wendy Richardson said. “Of course, a few have very challenging health issues that require a lot of support, and some are seniors, so we have had paramedics at the building from time to time.”
The complex has been criticized by some area residents, particularly those who live across the street at the Kiwanis Village for seniors. Last year, at a public hearing at Courtenay council chambers, several Kiwanis residents said it would exacerbate an already troubling situation in terms of drug activity and aggressive behaviour. They noted the proximity of the Pidcock emergency shelter and the Comox Valley Recovery Centre.
John Howard has heard from one or two local residents since the complex opened.
“One of those that I spoke with explained his concerns, and then was very open to hearing and understanding information that demonstrated why the problems he had witnessed were not related to The Junction,” Richardson said.
At the most recent council meeting, Doug Hillian spoke about the “growing pains” in the neighbourhood around The Junction.
“I think we’re being careful not to attribute them to the presence of The Junction,” he said. “We know from meeting with the police, and City staff, that there are other challenges that existed in that neighbourhood previously. They continue to exist, but we’re certainly pushing for increased police patrols, and if there are people in the area of the railway tracks late at night causing disturbances, that police attend and move them along.”
Richardson credits the Comox Valley RCMP for dropping by the building regularly to “liaise with us and stay connected.” Police are also sitting on a Community Advisory Committee, which held its first meeting.
Richardson believes the presence of Junction staff is also helping the situation. For example, an overnight staff member spotted a newly established homeless tent, which was promptly removed.
“I think it’s very important that as we continue to try and increase our housing stock, and provide homes for vulnerable people, that we also send out a message that anti-social behaviour that disturbs the peace of other residents is not something that we want in any way to condone,” Hillian said.
Along with a police presence, Hillian hopes some “environmental changes” will help tidy the neighbourhood and prevent the railway tracks from becoming a gathering spot.