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Two groups willing to operate homeless shelter in Comox Valley

Two groups are prepared to operate a Courtenay property that could be developed into an emergency homeless shelter.

The Wachiay Friendship Centre Society and M'akola Group of Societies are prepared to operate the Cliffe Avenue property that could be developed into an emergency homeless shelter or supportive housing unit. The groups are willing to undertake the planning, design, construction and management of the proposed facility."So far, the regional district has said that they're not going to do it," Wachiay program director Roger Kishi said. "The mayor (Larry Jangula) has been very clear that the City of Courtenay is not going to do it. It really is going to be up to some other organization or entity to do that work. There's all this uncertainty still around the property that's already purchased."The property in question is a trio of lots that the CVRD purchased in the 800 block of Cliffe Avenue, across the street from City Hall.Kishi is a board member of M'akola, a Victoria-based aboriginal housing society, which manages upwards of 1,000 units of social housing in B.C., most on Vancouver Island. An assisted living complex in Duncan is nearly complete. The groups forwarded their idea to the CVRD in February. The CVRD is awaiting the outcome of the City's request for expressions of interest before considering further action related to the Cliffe Avenue properties."Which seems now to have fizzled," Kishi said. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done still in our community. There's still discussions out there about what form of housing could go onto that property. Maybe it doesn't have to be a shelter, maybe it's supportive or transitional housing." Kishi, a Cumberland councillor, is also vice-chair of the Comox Valley Housing Task Force, whose input on the matter has not been sought, he said.He notes B.C. Housing's sentiment about speaking with one voice, but feels community consensus building is what's needed."I'm not sure that one voice is a realistic or achievable goal," Kishi said. "At least with consensus, people either agree with it or can live with it. With an issue like the homeless shelter, I'm not sure that we can get 100 per cent agreement. But I think that we can get to a point where people can live with it."• • •Kishi and other members of Cumberland council do not support a motion from Area B director Jim Gillis, who proposes the CVRD transfer the Cliffe Avenue properties 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 originally intended when the district purchased the properties. Gillis also proposes 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."I don't get it," Coun. Kate Greening said at Monday's meeting. "I would hope we vote no on it." Gillis — in a letter to fellow members of the regional district board who were to discuss his motion Tuesday — further suggests the CVRD supports selling a 20-foot portion of 865 Cliffe Ave. to Det Kunz, who owns the neighboring property, if the property is transferred to the city. His motion also calls for a repeal of a bylaw to establish an emergency shelter/supportive housing land acquisition service, if the trio of lots are transferred to the City. Kishi is not sure if "dumping everything in the lap of Courtenay" will move things forward. He finds Gillis' motion somewhat disrespectful considering the lack of input from member municipalities on the Valley-wide issue of homelessness. He also said the motion presupposes that $100,000 would be allocated with the $1 sale. Mayor Leslie Baird feels $100,000 should not be transferred to Courtenay considering the City does not want a shelter.  Courtenay staff, as directed by council, is looking into the possibility of amending Commercial One zoning to ensure homeless shelters are not permitted within a specified area of the downtown core.

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