Imagine going for three or four weeks without being able to bathe.
Up until Jan. 20, that was the reality that many people living outside or experiencing homelessness in Campbell River had to deal with. However, that is no longer the case now that Laichwiltach Family Life Society’s Kwesa Place gathering space is open.
“From what I hear from homeless folks, people are going three weeks, four weeks, without getting clean,” said Shawn Decaire, who works with the Laichwiltach Family Life Society. “This is something that all humans should have: the ability to get clean, to get their clothes clean, the ability to sit and talk and have a hot coffee and be treated like a human. This is not about race, it’s humanity.”
Laichwiltach Family Life Society also operates the adjacent Hama?Elas Community Kitchen, located at the Harbourside Inn in downtown Campbell River. The goal is to provide a space for people who are experiencing homelessness to have a place to come and warm up, have a snack, clean their clothes and take a shower.
“That this isn’t something that has happened yet is astonishing,” Decaire said. “I was on Hastings Street (in Vancouver) a long time ago when I was an addict, and there was nothing like this. We were stranded. This is so good to have something like this.”
Kwesa Place was officially opened with a blessing ceremony on Jan. 21 performed by Decaire, Audrey Wilson and Keith Walton. Decaire and Wilson also spoke after the initial blessing, thanking those who helped make the project come to life, including Lumina Native Housing for the funding the project.
“It’s risky to do this,” Decaire said. “They’re always pushing homeless away, and its nice to see organizations and foundations pushing to do the opposite, wanting to help the people and to invest in such a project.”
The Kwesa Place and Hama?Elas Community Kitchen are part of a pilot project that is funded until the end of the fiscal year. Decaire said he is hopeful that the funding will continue into the future and that the facility can be a benefit to the community for years to come.
Kwesa Place is currently open three days per week, with plans to extend that now that the showers are finished. Hama?Elas kitchen is open for dinner provided by Grassroots Kind Hearts every day from 5 until 5:30, with weekend lunches provided by the Campbell River Baptist Church and a Wednesday breakfast provided by KDC Health. The schedule is posted outside the door of the facility.