The Lilli House shelter reached capacity for most of the past month, prompting the Comox Valley Transition Society to accommodate a number of women in motels.
The situation is a sign of the times when shelters and food banks are servicing a greater number of clients, some of whom might not fit the perceived profile of a homeless person, the CVTS program co-ordinator said in an interview.
“I think when people think about the homeless, the image that comes to mind is somewhat down-and-out guys mostly,” Anne Davis said. “But it’s a far more diverse population than that, and women and kids tend to be overlooked in that equation, and seniors. We’ve certainly seen a lot of older women.”
Another group is middle class women who have left an abusive relationship, Davis added. Such women live in poverty if their case is tied up in court for years before reaching a property settlement.
Davis said a diverse cross-section of people means a variety of housing solutions are needed in the Comox Valley.
“It’s going to take diverse solutions as well,” said Davis, who credits Dali and Jin Lin for providing affordable rent at the Maple Pool Campsite in Courtenay.
However, she said an RV is not an option for women and children who are leaving Lilli House. Neither is an apartment, which is appropriate for some members of the homeless population but not for women who have had a lifetime of trauma because this type of program depends on roommates.
“They really need their own space, and also it does nothing to increase the supply of housing, which is what we’re desperately short on here. To house people in apartments will meet the immediate need of some people but it won’t increase the housing stock,” Davis said.
“Transition Society really wants to move forward on housing for women and children who are leaving Lilli House. It’s called second-stage housing, and it typically involves a number of supports. And typically they can live there for a couple of years.”
Davis applauds a proposal from L’Arche Comox Valley, which has asked the regional district for grant money to help construct duplex apartments to house people with developmental disabilities at property it owns on Grieve Avenue in Courtenay.
A significant portion of homeless individuals have some sort of mental impairment.
The CVRD board is in the process of deciding how to disburse a $300,000 grant from the Vancouver Island Health Authority. The money is intended to provide for community capacity to address homeless issues and to support healthy communities in the Valley.
A select committee has directed district staff to draft a Request for Proposal that seeks a subsidized, housing approach scattered throughout the community with supports for homeless individuals.