Campbell River housing advocates say the recent announcement that the city will be getting between 40 and 50 units of supportive housing will make a huge difference, but will still only be a start to fixing one of the many facets of the housing crisis in the city.
The city announced an agreement with BC Housing in late March. The addition of around 50 units of supportive housing “will fill a gap in the current housing options by offering integrated support that goes beyond providing shelter,” according to Mayor Andy Adams. “Support includes help with securing jobs, as well as counselling and health services so that vulnerable people have both long-term shelter and services as needed to help in other aspects of their lives.”
Adrian Moskal, part of the leadership team of the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness (CRDCEH) says the announcement was certainly a welcome one.
“This is a piece that we’ve been looking for for many years here in Campbell River,” Moskal says. “It’s not just an apartment block. It comes with services, whether those are meals, the ability to bring in professionals for addressing mental health or addictions services, help to find work or job training – those people can come right into the building and work with those people right where they need that help.”
While Moskal calls the announcement “a substantial start,” there are many questions that still need answering and much more work that needs to be done.
“They don’t have a ‘when’ for it to start, but the plan is for it to be finished within the next two years,” he says, but adds, “We want to applaud the city for taking this step, because it is very much needed.”
We also don’t know “where it will be” or “who is going to operate it” Moskal says, “but at least we do have the commitment for it to happen, and it’s been happening in other communities across B.C. already.”
Unlike some of the facilities that are going in across the province, this one isn’t going to be the purchase and renovation of an old hotel or apartment block, Moskal says.
“This one is going to be a new build and the city has announced that it’s providing the land and B.C. Housing is providing the money for the build and the facility’s ongoing operation. Some non-profit service provider will have to come in and operate it, but we don’t know who that will be.”
Based on the most recent homeless count in Campbell River, there are 81 people sleeping on our streets – and that number is almost assuredly low. What kind of effect will this facility have on that?
“Can I say this is going to make homelessness go away? Well, no, I’m obviously not going to claim that this will give every one of those people a bed, but I can certainly tell you that this will make a huge dent,” Moskal says. “Each one of those people has a story, and this is going to make a huge impact on every one of their lives.”
And it’s not only the impact on those people that will be positive, Moskal says.
“For me and where my heart is, my main concern is with their individual lives and giving them safety and dignity and security, but by giving these people a home, there’s also an impact on tourism, there’s an impact on local businesses, and the whole community gets stronger.”
Now that the supportive housing gap is going to be closing a little, the CRDCEH will now turn its attention back to housing affordability for the general population.
“Our vacancy rates in town are near the lowest on the Island,” he says, adding that while Campbell River has been growing its “single-detached housing” and “apartment-style housing,” there isn’t much in between.
In order to bring prices down, we need to diversify the offerings available to give more options such as townhouses and patio homes, he says.