Cliffe Avenue site in Courtenay makes perfect sense for homeless shelter

Dear editor,
I would like to convey my heartfelt support for the plans to have a community homeless shelter on Cliffe Avenue.

Dear editor,

I would like to convey my heartfelt support for the plans to have a community homeless shelter on Cliffe Avenue.

I have lived in Courtenay most of the past 30 years and have worked downtown for much of that time until my retirement last year. I have lived long enough in this community to remember when we never allowed people to be homeless — if needed, the Income Assistance office would put people up in one of the motels on Cliffe, close to the new site.

I still remember in my role as a counsellor being able to comfort people with the statement that ‘our community does not allow people to be homeless’ in response to clients who were so often worried that their financial situation would result in homelessness.

If you talk to anybody who has had close contact with our low-income and homeless neighbours, you will find great compassion for these folks. This is what builds our community.

How wonderful that we always have too many volunteers for the annual Christmas dinner for low-income folks. How we take care of our most vulnerable community members is a testament to the strength of our community. It also makes such a difference to how those vulnerable folks treat our community.

When we serve lunches, and provide housing and have our wonderful Care-A-Van reach out to these folks, those of us who are honoured to work in this field see such gratitude and so many people being able to rebuild their lives. It has long been known that providing safe, secure housing is often more effective than any amount of counselling or medication.

So I know that you all agree that we should provide such housing, but the challenge is — where?

The proposed site on Cliffe makes perfect sense. It is in the same neighbourhood as so many of our services already. This is where our community of homeless folks are.

So many of them also have mobility problems and having to make them walk miles to a more remote site doesn’t make sense. What makes sense is to make this project a vibrant part of our community.

In the past year, I went to a great upscale restaurant in Victoria, right across the street from a homeless/supported housing complex. There were also various health agencies situated in the building.

I was struck by the friendliness of the folks coming in and out of the project, and I’m sure that was because they felt part of the community.

That was confirmed when I found out that the upscale restaurant across the street was having an event for the homeless later that week. Not only were they cooking goodies, but a professional photographer was coming to take free portraits of folks. No wonder the community was friendly!

So please, let’s go ahead with the plan. Change will be challenging to some folks, but if we approach this project with creativity and compassion, it will be a real community builder.

Ironically, many years before I moved to the Valley, I passed through it on my way from the Little River ferry to Victoria. It’s funny to me now that I was not impressed at all by my first impressions of Courtenay.

Why? Because I seemed to be going through strip malls with fast food restaurants and malls that were not very attractive or inviting. I’m sure that a vibrant home for our most vulnerable community members will be intriguing and demonstrate just what a wonderful caring community we are.

Heather Kennedy-MacNeill,

Courtenay

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