A converted shipping container used as an emergency shelter in Campbell River in 2016. Black Press file photo

Shipping container housing for homeless to open this month at Courtenay site

Project is partnership of Comox Rotary and Dawn to Dawn and will help address housing needs

The Comox Rotary Club and Dawn to Dawn: Action on Homelessness Society will be opening the doors on a new home to help people in the community who are homeless.

The grand opening of the WeCanShelter project is slated for Sept. 29. Through the project, shipping containers will be repurposed as housing and placed at Maple Pool Campground. Four containers will be repurposed into transitional housing by the Comox Rotary Club and maintained and managed by Dawn to Dawn.

An advantage of repurposing the containers, says Comox Rotary president Charlene Davis, is they can be relocated if required and are more durable than housing such as trailers. As well, many old containers are sitting empty, waiting to be put to use.

The containers measure eight feet wide by 20 feet long by 9.5 feet high. Once converted, the units will have windows, a table, kitchen area, bathroom, shower, bed and electric baseboard heating. Durable materials such as plywood are used to finish the units. Each is estimated to cost around $20,000, though David says the first one will come in a little less because of donated materials from people and businesses in the community.

“You tell them what they’re doing and they say, ‘What can we do?’” Davis says.

For the project, Rotary pays for the container or “can,” but volunteer labour keeps costs down. David estimates the project represents about 800 hours.

Jin Lin of Maple Pool Campground, who has provided space for people needing a home for years, thinks the approach is a good solution. She first saw shipping container housing years ago in Vancouver and was impressed.

She says there are many people who face a housing crisis, including seniors, families and working people, so this latest step will help.

“Lots of people need somewhere to go to live,” she says.

She credits Comox Rotary and Dawn to Dawn for their work, especially as it can be hard to get funding for housing projects from governments.

“It’s so difficult for government to give to every organization,” she says.

The first unit is close to being done and should be ready in time for the opening ceremony. Two more are on order, with the hope of adding a fourth this year.

Tom Grant, who sits on the Dawn to Dawn board and got involved with the housing issue as a Comox Rotary member more than a decade ago, says the project fits in with Dawn to Dawn’s Housing First philosophy, which translates into finding safe, stable housing for people first and then addressing other factors, such as mental health or addictions. He says Dawn to Dawn has leased or rented different properties over the years to help address housing issues for people in the community.

“We’ve had lots of success stories,” he says.

READ MORE: Maple Pool trailer fire has some residents hoping for ‘more protective measures’

The ceremony for WeCanShelter will take place Sunday, Sept. 29 at 1 p.m. at Maple Pool Campground in Courtenay. The public is invited to view the new housing unit. Local dignitaries, partners and neighbours will be in attendance. Anyone wishing to make a donation to the project should go to the Go Fund Me page at: https://www.gofundme.com/wecanshelter



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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