‘Focused on solutions’: Concerns about Courtenay’s homelessness situation escalate

With the Comox Valley homelessness epidemic, temporary shelters and small tents, such as the one erected in the Courtenay City Hall parking lot, have become increasingly important in the community. Photo by Terry Farrell.
A temporary shelter sits within the landscape of the Courtenay Town Hall car park, with the Connections Center in the background.  The Connect Center is a safe haven for the homeless.A temporary shelter sits within the landscape of the Courtenay Town Hall car park, with the Connections Center in the background. The Connect Center is a safe haven for the homeless.

Jenny Deters was helpless.

The owner/operator of Design Therapy Inc. on Fifth Street in Courtney came to work on the morning of March 29 to find her sign defaced.

She expressed her frustration in a public, shareable post on social media.

“Feeling a failure today,” she wrote on Facebook. “We have worked hard over the past 11 years to make this business a part of our community. We donate to all of our local charities (in fact, we haven’t even turned down a single one in 11 years) and we are a capable A subsistence employer, and we love our downtown. We’ve had vandalism before, but this one hit hard…Today was probably the first time I actually felt bad going to work.”

Deters isn’t the only one feeling frustrated.

Business owners and residents have become increasingly vocal about the social unrest in Courtney, especially downtown.

Much of the frustration was directed at Courtney Mayor Bob Wells.

“It’s been a tumultuous few weeks, no question,” he said. “A lot of people are upset that if I had the power and the money and the land to do what people think I can do, maybe I could do something, but yeah. I think that’s just dislocation, but all things considered… I Try to stay positive and really try to focus on the solution.”

A $7.6 million windfall

In terms of funding, the city got a windfall in March when the provincial government allocated $1 billion to the municipality, with a variety of options for how to use it.

Courtney received $7.655 million from the fund, and if that money could be used for this purpose, it would go a long way toward alleviating the city’s homelessness problem.

Wells said he and staff are still determining any restrictions on how the money will be used.

when contacting Recordthe Ministry of Municipal Affairs has clarified the qualifications for use.

“Growing Communities Fund grants can be used to directly build affordable housing when housing is owned by a local government or a wholly-owned subsidiary of a local government, such as a housing corporation,” the statement read.

“Grants may also be used to reduce development financing costs that developers of affordable housing that are not owned by local governments may have to pay. These may include development cost charges or subdivision service charges or similar charges payable.”

The pilot project is here

One of the city’s initiatives to increase security in Courtenay is a pilot project in partnership with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) that will add a foot patrol to the existing police force.

“We’ve been working on a pilot project — me and (Comox Valley RCMP detachment commander) Inspector. Kurvers increasing foot patrols,” Wells said. “It probably won’t start until the May long weekend – it will take time to line up … our ducks – but the city will cost extra, especially between the May long weekend and the September long weekend Foot patrols, really looking at critical moments and critical locations. So they provide an additional police presence that will be in addition to the additional charter officers that we’re sanctioning now.

“So it’s about reassuring people that we’re going to do our best to get as many RCMP out on the streets as possible.”

There is also a motion calling for a community safety office somewhere in or near the city center.

this Record Kurvers has been contacted for more information on the pilot project.

courtney problem magnified

Wells said the recently completed point-in-time statistics will give his staff a clearer picture of how the city matches up with other cities on the island, such as Nanaimo or Campbell River, per capita.

Courtney’s numbers are inflated compared with other cities in the Comox Valley, he said. Courtenay is the center and the town that provides all available resources for the most vulnerable; resources such as Mental Health Centre, Connect Centre, soup kitchens etc.

“All the services for people suffering from all sorts of issues are concentrated in downtown Courtney, so you can go to Comox or Cumberland and there’s really a different level of service – or any service, Compare that to downtown Courtney — you’ll see less (visible homelessness),” he said.

“That said, I want to applaud the way the whole region has worked together … from other cities and regions, everyone realizes it’s a team effort and goes for it.”

Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna Rae Leonard released a written statement on March 27 acknowledging Courtenay’s problems and saying she is “prioritizing solutions that meet everyone’s needs.”

this Record Leonard was contacted to expand that statement and inform voters of the specific solutions she was prioritizing. She hasn’t responded yet.

Comox Valley Homeless

<!– View Comments –>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *