Shawn Decaire does a blessing ceremony for the Hama?Elas Community Kitchen in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror

Shawn Decaire does a blessing ceremony for the Hama?Elas Community Kitchen in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror

Hama?Elas Community Kitchen progress shared

Strategic planning, progress made on various projects also discussed at CRDCEH meeting

The Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness held its inaugural meeting of 2021 on Thursday, and welcomed new coordinator Stefanie Hendrickson to the role.

The meeting, led by leadership team member Sue Moen, touched on a number of future-looking items for the Coalition, setting the stage for the upcoming year.

The Coalition’s team will be reaching out to stakeholders to compile a list of plans each stakeholder has to work towards housing in the area. They plan to use that list to identify gaps in the system, and then work to fill those gaps and ensure that as much work is being done as possible to help alleviate homelessness in Campbell River.

“As we move in 2021, the leadership team is looking at solidifying the Coalition’s role in the community and beginning to undertake some strategic and operational planning to give the Coalition and the membership clear direction over the coming years,” said Hendrickson. “Where do we want to be in three to five years, what are our community goals to ending homelessness and coming together to solve this?”

A few of the new facilities to help the homeless people of Campbell River have had updates, including the housing facility at 580 Dogwood Street, the Hama?elas community kitchen and attached Kwesa Place in the Harbourside Inn, as well as the Rosebowl bridge housing facility downtown.

The housing project at 580 Dogwood is nearing completion, with the Vancouver Island Mental Health Society (VIMHS) having its first tour of the facility last week. The 50 suites in the building are to be fully-furnished and available to the current residents of the Rosebowl bridge housing facility when 580 Dogwood opens in mid-February.

“The current 20 residents of the Rosebowl will transition over, as well as another 30 people who were invited to reside there,” said Kristi Schwanicke, Housing and Program Manager of VIMHS.

Of the other 30 residents, 20 have been notified. They are selected by the VIMHS Coordinated access and assessment committee based on criteria set out by BC Housing.

“A lot of people know they have been invited to be a resident so far, but not all of those names have been identified yet,” Schwanicke said. “It’s still ongoing through a weekly committee that’s supported by B.C. Housing to do that work.”

The bridge housing project at the Rosebowl facility has had its operations funding extended until March 31, 2021. This will allow a further 20 people to have a place to stay after the current residents are moved into the 580 Dogwood facility. These residents are chosen from the BC Housing Supportive Housing list. Those on the list have been experiencing homelessness for 12 or more months, must be from the Campbell River area and those with vulnerabilities like health and mental issues take priority. The Rosebowl is also looking for new staff to support the new residents.

Finally, the Hama?elas community kitchen and attached Kwesa Place (Kwesa means spiritual healing) gathering place has been very successful since it opened in late November. Between 25 and 55 people have been coming regularly for dinner service, with 15-30 for lunches and breakfast. Volunteers are being trained in Food Safe and work is being done to set up a leadership team to help manage the facility.

Next week will also be the grand opening of the Kwesa Place side, which has laundry facilities, snacks and will have showers available as well. Kwesa Place had a soft opening and was running at a limited capacity until now.

“That’s very exciting to see that other side of the operation fully functional by next week,” said Ian Baikie, who helped with construction and management of the facility. “They’ve had great use in their limited activities, with tens of people coming through any given day. They’ve been running a three-day program, and have been striving to get to a five-day program in that facility.”

“The new name for this space is called Kwesa Place, that’s to do with a spiritual healing and bathing place, as well as gathering,” explained Audrey Wilson, executive director of the Laichwiltach Family Life Society, who runs the facility. “It’s a drop-in, but we also have one-on-one support for individuals who come in. It’s about giving that one-on-one support and trying to get them on the right path, so that’s what some of the staff are doing.”

RELATED: Community Kitchen blessed by Laichwiltach First Nation

Campbell River restaurant to be converted into housing for people experiencing homelessness

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