Regional district offers homeless shelter ‘enticement’ to Courtenay

It's been more than two years since the regional district purchased property in Courtenay for the purpose of building a homeless shelter.

It’s been more than two years since the regional district purchased property in the 800 block of Cliffe Avenue in Courtenay for the purpose of building a homeless shelter.Jim Gillis would like to expedite things by letting Courtenay have the final say in the contentious issue. At Tuesday’s board meeting, the Area B director proposed to transfer the three lots to the City of Courtenay for $1 on condition that the land — or proceeds from the land, should the city dispose of the properties — be used for emergency shelter/supportive housing purposes, as intended when the district purchased the property.Gillis also proposed that $100,000 from a Vancouver Island Health Authority grant be transferred to the city to assist with the development of emergency shelter/supportive housing. “This might give us an opportunity to move expeditiously … to give the homeless accommodation,” Gillis said. He noted Mayor Larry Jangula, responding to a backlash from downtown Courtenay businesses, would like to change zoning to prevent homeless shelters from existing in the downtown core. Comox director Tom Grant favoured the requested action but suggested transferring a greater amount to Courtenay, the idea being to have decision-making under one jurisdiction. He first suggested transferring the entire $300,000 from VIHA that is earmarked for initiatives to address homelessness and healthy communities, but Gillis said there are too many non-profit groups needing money.Grant then suggested a $150,000 transfer.”My intention is to entice Courtenay to enter into an agreement,” said Grant, who feels one-third of the VIHA funding is not enough. Gillis thinks $100,000 is a fair amount based on Courtenay’s population. “Who else out there needs part of the $200,000?” he said. “It sets a new tone to where we are and what we’re about.”An amended motion to transfer $150,000 was defeated in a weighted vote, with Grant and Courtenay directors Starr Winchester, Jon Ambler and Manno Theos voting in favour. The board favoured a Theos motion to transfer a minimum of $100,000. Cumberland director Gwyn Sproule, the lone board member opposed, is not clear how transferring the property to Courtenay will help the situation. She notes money was collected by the entire Comox Valley and feels further discussion is needed. At the last committee of the whole meeting, Sproule’s motion to sell the entire Cliffe Avenue parcel, as opposed to leasing part of the property, was not seconded. At that same meeting, the board deferred a request from Det Kunz to purchase a 20-foot strip at 865 Cliffe Ave. until the June 12 committee meeting. Kunz owns the building next door at 841 Cliffe Ave.Along with the request to transfer money to Courtenay, Gillis also called for a repeal of a bylaw to establish an emergency shelter/supportive housing land acquisition service, if the trio of lots are transfered from the district to the city. The motion was deferred. “It’s time to be leaders in the community,” said Gillis, adding the cost of two lattes per year — $12 per household — would generate an additional $500,000 that could help deal with homelessness. “We have a problem here, let’s deal with it.”