City’s Homelessness Coalition dissolved by council

The city’s Homelessness Coalition, in its present form, will fold, following a decision by its members to disband the group

The city’s Homelessness Coalition, in its present form, will fold, following a decision by its members to disband the group.

Six members signed a letter, dated April 16 and served to council on its May 11 meeting agenda, offering their resignation.

Coalition members said they chose to resign from the group in order to join a new community-based organization being formed to address issues surrounding homelessness and community health.

“Through a strengthened commitment in our efforts to eradicate homelessness and poverty in Campbell River, members have chosen to move forward by creating a community committee to address issues of homelessness, housing and poverty in Campbell River,” the members wrote in their joint letter to council.

Mayor Andy Adams said the new committee will have council’s full support.

“We’re all looking forward to continuing to work together collaboratively to help the community committee accomplish their goals,” Adams said in a release.

He said among other things, the community committee will work toward the establishment of a Community Health Network that includes several community stakeholders.

The Strathcona Regional District, in partnership with Island Health, is currently in the preliminary stages of determining the feasibility of such a program. Community Health Networks work to help health care providers pin point what specific regional issues are contributing to poor health for its citizens. The Network aims to improve health and well-being by focusing on circumstances that affect a person’s health such as where they were born, where they grew up, where they live, work and age.

Issues identified in this region include homelessness, affordable housing and transportation, social support networks, employment opportunities, access to services, and education.

Island Health has initiated a reference group as part of the Community Health Network formation phase consisting of Island Health’s Dr. Jeff Beselt, executive medical director, Dr. Charmaine Enns, North Island medical health officer, Tony O’Keefe, vice-president and chief of communications and public relations, representatives from the division of family practice, as well as Strathcona Regional District directors Noba Anderson, Jude Schooner and Ron Kerr. The Health Network is just one component of the new community homelessness committee which will continue on with the work that the Homelessness Coalition volunteers have put in over the years.

The Coalition was formed in 2010 under past mayor and current councillor Charlie Cornfield, on a recommendation from the Homelessness Task Force which was created in the spring of 2009. The task force was set up to examine homelessness in the community and provide city council with recommendations on how to alleviate the problem.

The Homelessness Coalition operated under the ‘Housing First’ approach, which supports permanent low-barrier, supportive housing with a focus on harm reduction. The goal of the ‘Housing First’ approach is to immediately house people who are without a home no matter what their condition or situation. Between 2012 and 2014, the coalition provided funding support for a temporary worker at Palmer Place; funded a study to explore partnership opportunities for the development of a 30-plus unit supportive housing complex for the homeless; volunteered more than 900 hours; and developed the Campbell River Community Homelessness Strategy, which identified the need for a low-barrier shelter, additional extreme weather shelter and a homeless hub for services.