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LETTER – More must be done to address homelessness in the Comox Valley

Dear editor,

As has been reported in the paper previously, the homelessness crisis in the Comox Valley is spiraling out of control. Working in the mental health field, I see the devastation homelessness has on individuals on a daily basis – and not just in the winter months.

Rather than passing the buck, the Comox Valley Regional District and the City of Courtenay need to step up the plate with an increased effort to provide permanent resources for the long term, rather than providing short-term Band-Aid solutions. The Comox Valley Record (Nov. 3, 2021) reported that statistics from a pre-pandemic count in the Comox Valley indicated 132 individuals, at minimum, were experiencing homelessness. In September 2021, the number was estimated to exceed 230 individuals — a 74 per cent increase since March 2020.

The Comox Valley Transition Society does a wonderful job at the Connect Warming Center, providing a place safe and welcoming space for vulnerable individuals but from the statistics provided above; they just do not have the space to cater to the entire homeless population in the city. With the recent extreme cold weather we experienced in the Valley, the city did operate the CVRD’s Civic Room as a temporary shelter, but why did they wait until the very last minute to put this into action? Anybody who watches the news knows that we were given ample warning of an extreme cold weather snap – but yet, the city dragged its heels in opening up these spaces to our homeless population and could have easily opened their doors earlier.

Why did the CVRD not issue temporary shelters when we had the heavy snowfall as of last week? Again, we were given sufficient warning of abundant snowfall forthcoming, but the lack of planning from the City of Courtenay meant that those without homes were left to fend for themselves. The City of Courtenay also needs to realize that the homeless population does not subside during the remaining months of the year. Allocation of city funding leaves a lot to be desired and rather than plowing exorbitant amounts of funding into such projects as the renovation of the 5th Street Bridge, some permanent homeless shelters that run 365 days a year must be subsidized and created in order for us to take a positive step forward in tackling homelessness.

Jimmy Andrews,

Courtenay

Letter to the Editor