Courtenay council approved a plan to open public shower facilities and to extend public washroom hours in an effort to support vulnerable individuals during the coronavirus crisis.
At present, washrooms are open seven days week from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. at the Sid Williams Theatre Plaza and at Simms Park. Deputy CAO Trevor Kushner said the hours can be extended to 11 p.m., at a cost of $150 per day per site. The expense would total $1,000 a day. The City hopes some costs can be reimbursed through Emergency Management B.C.
In conjunction with the Comox Valley Transition Society, which is working on behalf of the CV Coalition to End Homelessness, the City also intends to make showers available to those in need. Two facilities will be available at the south end of the Lewis Centre.
“They would be available from the outside of the building,” Dave Snider, director of recreation and cultural services, said Monday via teleconference at committee of the whole. “There’s a men’s and women’s access point. The Transition Society is looking to man it through the creation of a tent on the outside with a table.”
An attendant would distribute soap, towels and other supplies, and ensure one person at a time uses the facilities. The attendant would also ensure people are maintaining a two-metre social distance, as required by Public Health.
Starting Wednesday, the plan is to open showers from 7:30-11:30 a.m. Monday-Friday at the Lewis Centre.
“I know the medical health officers across the province are recommending these services to our folks who are not housed, and to help mitigate this health crisis,” Coun. Wendy Morin said.
Doug Hillian, noting the $30,000 monthly cost, suggested reviewing the service in a few weeks.
The City has found commercial kitchen space for LUSH Valley to provide two emergency food programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization plans to initiate a hamper and gift card delivery program, and a hot meal delivery program.
“All of these programs will be based on a home delivery model with professional drivers,” LUSH executive director Maurita Prato states in a letter to council. “The reason we are asking for these central spaces is because we believe that the space will provide a safe location for these programs.”
Morin credits the efforts of LUSH and the Comox Valley Food Policy Council.
“It’s been quite a feat of getting food out to people really quickly,” Morin said. “There’s so much they’ve been doing behind the scenes. They’re getting food out to social housing as well as individuals. They’re going to be looking at trying to get food to kids in school because those services are gone now.”
Lush has asked the City not to name the facilities for the safety of volunteers and patrons.
Hot meal deliveries will start Wednesday. Prato expects the Good Food Box Delivery to start in the next week, once a location is secured.