Thanks to a new community kitchen coming to downtown Campbell River, people experiencing homelessness will not have to eat out in the cold this winter.
The new kitchen/dining area will be located in the Harbourside Inn building. According to volunteer Ian Baikie, it will be able to seat at least 36 people, depending on the COVID-19 regulations at any given time, and will be a place for people who are food insecure and needing supports to come and get a meal.
The venture is a partnership between the Strathcona Community Health Network, the Laichwiltach Family Life Society and the Campbell River Coalition to End Homelessness’ vulnerable population working group, which formed after the closure of the Radiant Life Family church this summer.
“What we found during that time was that there really wasn’t one cohesive organization that could have this umbrella responsibility for emregency food relief seven days a week and through the weekend. A lot of the organizations are already filling needs within the community,” said Strathcona Community Health Network coordinator Erica Benson.
The group was able to apply for the Emergency Community Support funding through the Campbell River Community Foundation. That funding will be used to rent and operate the space until March 31, 2021. By then, Benson hopes a more permanent solution can be found.
“This is a very short term, immediate need to help cover until March 2021. During that time we’re also hoping to do some community planning around how we can create a more long-term and sustainable solution,” Benson said. “I think through the community consultations and the next steps in the long-term visioning we’ll include room for that and to hear what the community would like to see. There are some really amazing examples of what could happen in Campbell River, and I think it’s really exciting.”
The location was chosen because of its close proximity to existing services, and because most people who would use it are already located in the downtown area.
“It makes sense in terms of not creating more barriers when what you’re trying to do is reduce some of those challenges that populations experiencing food insecurity, facing homelessness have,” Benson said. “It meets the needs in terms of food preparation, and has room to offer the proper spacing. This meets the needs of the user groups who are looking to operate at the Harbourside.”
Baikie and volunteers are currently retrofitting the space, which includes installing new booths with higher backs to ensure physical separation between parties, an easily washable floor, a full commercial kitchen and, notably, a dishwashing facility. Since the Radiant Life church closed, food security programs have had to move outside, leaving people eating on sidewalks using primarily disposable plates and cutlery. The new facility will give those people a chance to eat inside, reduce plastic waste and to feel a sense of dignity.
“It gets everybody to a dry, warm place,” Baikie said.
The new facility is expected to be open after renovations are complete sometime before the end of November.
“I hope that early next week the renovations will be done,”Benson added. “It still feels like the restaurant that used to be there, which is really nice.”