It’s no secret that affordable housing – and lack thereof – is on people’s mind these days.
It was a major issue discussed during the recent federal election, it’s constantly discussed around city council chambers and there are organizations of people whose sole reason for forming was to discuss and help address the problem.
One of those groups is the Coalition to End Homelessness, made up of representatives from local organizations who deal with the housing problems and its causes day-in, day-out, such as the Strathcona Community Health Network (SCHN).
The SCHN – along with the Coalition to End Homelessness – recently launched a Housing Needs Assessment, as well as an initiative inviting Campbell Riverites to share their thoughts on the community’s housing needs in a series of “Housing Ideas Walls” around the community. The organization has again partnered up with the Coalition to End Homelessness, as well as the Laichwiltach Family Life Society and Sasamans Society – organizations that have been hosting their own housing meetings since early 2019 – to address housing issues specific to the region’s Indigenous population.
Campbell River’s indigenous population is diverse and includes people from Nations and communities from across the island and the country, according to Nick Chowdhury, co-chair of the SCHN. In 2018 a Regional Housing Needs Assessment was completed and the major qualitative finding from that study was that discrimination in the Campbell River rental market, particularly racism, is high. Large families also face discrimination in the rental market, putting indigenous children and young parents in unstable situations, Chowdhury says.
“Commonly, there are many larger families in the First Nations communities,” Chowdhury says, as well as living situations where extended families – aunts, uncles, grandparents – live together in the same home. “Maybe they’re coming here because of medical challenges and they can’t get the service they need up in Port Hardy or wherever,” Chowdhury says. “So they move the family down here, but they don’t have the income available to afford a home that’s large enough for the kids they have, plus the extra adults.”
So now that the health network has looked at the housing needs for the community, in general, it wants to look at the struggles of specific demographics and wants to hear directly from indigenous youth, families, and community members during the next engagement, which will be held on Monday, Nov. 25 at the Robron Centre Conference Room.
The day will start with a session for youth at 11:30 a.m. before opening up to everyone else from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. It will be a fun event with food, door prizes, superstore gift cards, cinema passes for the youth, child minding, and help with transport will all be provided. Sasamans elders will attend to support community and participants.
“This is about how to support the most vulnerable people in our community, both those living at home and away from home,” says Chowdhury says. “It’s also an opportunity to think outside of the box and do better than what we’ve seen done in the past. We need ideas and we need them to come from everywhere and everyone.”
The Nov. 25 engagements will be hosted by M’akola Housing Society with support from Vancouver Island University planning students. Community input will be used to inform conversations about future housing projects and housing policy in Campbell River. It’s being paid for by an Island Health Wellness grant and a UBCM grant received through the City of Campbell River.
For more information on the event, contact Chowdhury directly at 250-898-7712.