The regional district committee of the whole (COW) is recommending a $20,000 allocation to the Wachiay Friendship Centre to develop a youth suicide prevention program in partnership with the school district, and $6,000 to the Dawn to Dawn: Action on Homelessness Society to develop year-round recreation programs.
The money would come from a one-time $300,000 grant from the Vancouver Island Health Authority, provided for community capacity to address homeless issues and to support healthy communities in the Valley.
As for the remaining funds, directors voted Tuesday to have a three-person select committee meet with district staff and bring back recommendations at the next COW session. The select committee consists of Comox director Tom Grant, Courtenay director Starr Winchester and Area C director Edwin Grieve.
There are no specific parameters as to how the district spends the money, says VIHA North Island medical health officer Charmaine Enns, who was on hand Tuesday to answer questions.
“It’s a very open slate,” said Enns, noting Strathcona and Nanaimo districts are also struggling with the question of how to allocate funds. “It’s a wonderful opportunity.”
Along with the Wachiay and Dawn to Dawn initiatives, regional district staff has recommended $50,000 each to the Comox Valley housing task force terms of reference, the Village of Cumberland healthy community partnership, and walking programs in the Town of Comox. The other $100,000 is to be transferred to the City of Courtenay for the development of emergency shelter/supportive housing.
The committee had deferred the item at its June meeting.
“I’m tired of talking about doing things,” said Courtenay director Jon Ambler, who notes money has been spent on walking trails while those in need remain hungry and homeless.
Grant is also tired of talking, adding to terms of reference, and creating partnerships and “studies that are going to collect dust.
“Let’s get some people off the streets with this money,” Grant said. “Let’s start housing people.”
Grant’s amended motion for the committee to focus on homeless issues, specifically Housing First, carried. Area A director Bruce Jolliffe and Area B director Jim Gillis opposed the amendment.
Gillis suggested deferring the staff recommendation until hearing from associations that deal with homelessness, and until Cumberland comes up with a specific project. His motion was not seconded.
As opposed to a select committee, Jolliffe suggested individual directors could bring forth specific recommendations for debate.
Cumberland director Gwyn Sproule would like the plan to be forwarded to each council. While she agrees homelessness needs to be resolved, Sproule advocates part of the money being spent on healthy communities.