First step to change is accepting its necessity

posted Jul 7, 2014 at 12:00 PM; Roger Albert – Guest columnist So, the CVRD board has decided to give you an opportunity on Nov. 15 to express your support for, or opposition to, creating a service in support of affordable housing and helping the homeless. It will be in the form of a non-binding market-type survey. Well, at least, that’s something more than we have now. November 15 is not that far off, but it still gives us some time to consider alternatives and arguments for and against creating a CVRD service in support of affordable housing and projects aimed at ending homelessness in the Comox Valley. Of course, some folks are going to be opposed to such a move no matter what arguments are put before them or how thick the evidence is in support of it.  Their minds are already made up. The truth is that there is an underlying and strong prejudice in our society against the poor and homeless. Some people simply see them as moral degenerates, undeserving of any help.  After all, we achieved everything we have with just hard work, right? Well, they argue, it’s fine to hand out a few bags of groceries at a food bank, provide lunch at a soup kitchen or emergency shelter for those who need it, but there should be no doubt that helping the poor too much removes any incentive they might have had to work or get more training to ‘better’ themselves. Other folks, the majority of us, I believe, have sympathy for the poor, homeless and disadvantaged. Some of us see inequity as a social justice issue. We...

Remaining homelessness grant money finds a home

by  Scott Stanfield – Comox Valley Record; posted Jul 2, 2014 at 11:00 AM The regional district board approved a request from Comox Director Tom Grant to commit remaining homelessness grant funding from the Vancouver Island Health Authority to the Dawn to Dawn Action on Homelessness Society. The money — $15,654 — will help the society continue a scattered housing program through the winter months. The CVRD has an agreement with Dawn to Dawn to deliver the program that houses marginalized individuals in rental units. However, the agreement ends in November and funding is running dry. Earlier in the year, previous funding of about $174,000 helped the organization exceed its goal of housing 18 clients over a two-year period. “I think the scattered housing concept is very effective,” Courtenay director Manno Theos said at Tuesday’s meeting. TFP goals get approval The board was unanimous in its approval of Transit Future Plan goals such as attracting new riders and aligning the region’s transit system with town centres. Opinion, however, was divided when it came to the question of funding short-term service priorities identified as highest ridership and revenue per service hour. In a 7-3 vote, the board approved a $270,000 net cost to the CVRD. Courtenay director Starr Winchester feels the additional money is not going to increase bus ridership in the Valley. Courtenay Directors Bill Anglin and Manno Theos also opposed the additional cost share with BC Transit. The 25-year Future Plan identifies key corridors and considers other factors such as the physical benefits of walking to and from a bus stop. Letter to Ministry The district will send a letter to the Ministry of...

Should curling take priority over homelessness?

posted Jun 23, 2014 at 2:00 PM ; Roger Albert – Guest columnist What will it take? In 2008 the then mayor of Courtenay, Starr Winchester, wrote these words in a letter prefacing the release of Homeless!, the report of the City of Courtenay Mayor’s Task Force on Breaking the Cycle of Mental Illness, Addiction and Homelessness in the Comox Valley: “The issue of homelessness is complex and difficult to solve in isolation.  We recognize that resolving this issue will require the co-operation and partnership of all levels of government as well as community partners. “I strongly support the recommendations contained in this report and look forward to forming partnerships in order to address these very serious issues in our community.” That was six years ago. The mayor expresses strong support for the recommendations of the Task Force, including using a Housing First approach (Google it!). These are laudable words from the former mayor, but the recommendations of the Task Force are a long way from being achieved. It’s not as if nothing has happened to deal with homelessness, mental health and addictions in the community, but we’re still just managing the problem and not really getting anywhere in ending homelessness and creating affordable housing. I know our elected officials want to be fiscally responsible and I applaud them for that. To do the fiscally responsible thing now would be to implement a Housing First model and to create a CVRD service and a municipal non-profit society to manage and champion housing and service initiatives. We know that putting people in homes first and then providing them with adequate supports to deal with their physical...

Habitat for Humanity housing project now complete

Image above: Peter Sanderson and a group of dedicated volunteers attended the simple key ceremony for Nadine Miles and her daughter Casey, the sixth deserving family to take possession of the affordable housing on Piercy Avenue. Big celebration to honour volunteers and donors to take place Saturday  Michael Briones/ Echo Staff / Comox Valley Echo – June 13, 2014 08:46 AM – See more at: http://www.comoxvalleyecho.com/news/local/habitat-for-humanity-housing-project-now-complete-1.1128565#sthash.boVjvgG5.dpuf The biggest affordable housing project in the Comox Valley is now complete. The housing project headed by the Vancouver Island North Habitat for Humanity took a year and a half to build. It features three duplexes located on Piercy Avenue in Courtenay. They were built by the over a thousand volunteers with support coming from different groups, businesses and companies in the Comox Valley. “This is the biggest project we’ve ever built,” said Karen Bezaire, of Habitat for Humanity. “We normally just build one duplex simply because that’s all the lot would allow for. But this one is a long, long narrow lot that we acquired and we had more space to put more home. It made more sense to do that.” Six deserving families have now moved into the new homes. The last family to receive the keys to their new abode was Nadine Miles and her daughter Casey just a month ago. To celebrate the community achievement, Habitat for Humanity is holding a dedication event to honour the people that made the project a reality. The event will take place at Piercy Avenue on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Visitors and guests will get the opportunity to tour the homes, meet the families and...

Homelessness is a Valley-wide issue

by  Andrew Lochhead – Comox Valley Record; posted Jun 10, 2014 at 12:00 PM ROGER ALBERT (Guest columnist) I sincerely applaud Courtenay for moving ahead on the Braidwood project, but I also know that the population of Courtenay is 37 per cent of the Valley population. Why should Courtenay residents stand alone in dealing with this Valley-wide issue? Any solution to this thorny problem needs to be a Valley-wide one and the CVRD is the logical choice to get action started by creating an arms-length non-profit society to champion the issue. The reality is that Braidwood addresses only a limited portion of the population in housing need. There are many organizations in town that desperately want to see appropriate and affordable housing built for their clients. At the moment, there is no way to effectively and independently evaluate projects and to decide on the most deserving or the most pressing ones, so the provincial government can argue that we don’t speak with one voice and we won’t get any provincial funding until we do. A local government non-profit society would be able to access and leverage funds in ways municipalities and regional districts cannot. It’s conceivable that such an organization could be self-supporting in a reasonable period of time. Some people are going to argue that we shouldn’t be spending a dime on housing anybody because if you’re poor and homeless or living in precarious accommodations it’s your fault and you don’t deserve any help.  You must be lazy or unwilling to get training to ‘improve’ yourself.  That may be true in a minority of cases, but physical and mental health issues create poverty and homelessness...