There have been a few letters to the editor recently suggesting that the Maple Pool Campsite is the answer to homelessness in the Comox Valley.
With all due respect to the Lins, who have developed a real sense of community at Maple Pool, the style of housing they are able to offer is only one part of the spectrum of housing needed in our community.
Those of us who work on the front lines are well aware that the local homeless population consists of people with diverse needs — people with mental health issues and addictions, people who have a variety of disabilities, seniors, students, part-time workers who cannot afford rent, and women escaping abusive relationships. Some children attending local schools are homeless.
Meeting the needs of such a varied group requires a variety of housing solutions.
One solution is to meet the urgent need for a new emergency shelter. While the Salvation Army has done a remarkable job at the existing shelter, they face many limitations including no wheelchair access, not enough beds for the current need (people needing the shelter are sometimes turned away), inadequate space for programming and services to help residents move on with their lives.
Every day the Comox Valley Transition Society sees the need for housing for women and their children who have experienced abuse and violence. Our Lilli House shelter was over-full through much of the past month, with a number of women being accommodated in motels.
We probably could have housed those women in our shelter if we didn’t have women still in residence who, while ready to move, couldn’t find appropriate housing in our community. For these women, many with children, an RV in a campground is not the right answer.
The Transition Society also hosts a Drop-in Lunch Program that is attended by up to 60 women each week. These women are homeless, at risk of homelessness and/or living in deep poverty. Many are seniors and many have disabilities.
Their housing needs are unique as they require both support and security from violence.
Housing solutions must include long-term housing that is secure and supportive for women and their children who are leaving Lilli House following the end of an abusive relationship, supportive housing for adults with a variety of physical, mental and developmental disabilities, and housing for seniors, students and others.
The Transition Society is in a position to move forward on housing for women and children but requires property on which to build.
Responding to the crisis of homelessness in our community will require a variety of responses. Many of the solutions are available, but it will take political will at all levels to make them a reality.
Our community has a proud history of responding to crisis; we can do this, too.
Editor’s note: Anne Davis is the program co-ordinator of the Comox Valley Transition Society.