Potential Temporary COVID-19 Homeless Tenting Site Identified in North Cowichan

 (North Cowichan, BC) – In April, the regional COVID-19 Task Force for Vulnerable Populations submitted a 30-day, short-term plan to BC Housing that proposed to house vulnerable persons in the Cowichan Valley in small-scale, “family cluster” outdoor tenting sites that would accommodate up to 12 people per site. Last week, BC Housing approved the proposal and funding was awarded to the Task Force to initiate the Plan. The Rapid Relief Fund, organized by the Victoria Foundation, Jawl Foundation and Times Colonist is providing $220,000 and BC Housing is providing an additional $172,000 to Support the Plan.

The plan submitted to BC housing will see a phased approach, with the short-term tenting sites being Phase One. The medium to long-term plan will include a post-COVID-19 transition strategy to ensure tenting sites do not remain permanent fixtures in our community. Approximately 6-8 tenting sites will be identified, the locations of which will not be in municipal parks or greenspace. Several potential temporary tenting sites have been identified, one of them being the south parking lot at Fuller Lake Arena in Chemainus. Identification of this site has been done in direct response to Provincial call to assist vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 crisis and involves Provincial and Municipal cooperation. The site will include involvement from on-the-ground service providers such as Cowichan Neighbourhood House, who interact daily with the Chemainus homeless population and know each of them individually. Inhabitants of this camp are already living in the Chemainus area and will not be brought in from other areas of the Island or Valley.

In addition, there will be a number of processes and assurances in place to ensure these tenting sites are safe both for those residing in the nearby community, and those accessing the tenting sites. For example, potential inhabitants wishing to take advantage of these sites, will be required to sign a Code of Conduct agreement as a condition of their residency. Before being admitted, they will also be tested for COVID-19. If a positive test result is received, Island Health will arrange to move these individuals into isolation in hotel rooms. Those who do not test positive will be able to form their own “Family Cluster” so they can interact and care for each other. Each of the sites will be closely managed, with enhanced security patrols, garbage removal, daily food, outreach contact, hygiene facilities, and more. These services will help limit the spread of COVID-19 among our most vulnerable residents and also protect the public at large from further community transmission. 

Mayor Al Siebring says, “North Cowichan is not leading this initiative, but we have been cooperating at the request of the Province, who asked each municipality to identify potential sites to aid in COVID-19 response for the homeless population. We chose to respond by identifying this site and insisting on certain provisions, including enhanced security at the site.” Siebring continues: “The site in the arena parking lot is out of the way, and provides both privacy and security to those who reside there. Ideally, most people in Chemainus won’t even notice it.   

“The community is safer with this project. Currently, people who are untested for COVID-19 are camping either at random spots throughout the area or on Croft Street below Waterwheel Park, close to homes and businesses,” said Siebring. “This plan allows vulnerable people to have the means to keep clean, access COVID-19 testing, and sleep in an area that is safer than what they are currently using. This is only Phase One of a larger plan to address the homeless crisis we are facing. In carrying this work forward, we will work with BC Housing and senior levels of government, to secure funding commitments for more permanent housing that will include fundamentally necessary wrap-around services; such as mental health and addictions support and more,” he concluded.   

A final decision on the use of the Fuller Lake site is expected later this week. We anticipate further communication with more detail on behalf of the COVID-19 Task Force for Vulnerable Populations. Visit our website for the most recent information www.northcowichan.ca    


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Media Contact:         
Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117
E Mayor@northcowichan.ca