A Bridge To Housing For The Homeless

Campbell River’s Bridge To Housing For The Homeless

When the last count was taken, two years ago, there were at least 81 homeless people in Campbell River. After COVID hit, the homeless population was identified as one of the most vulnerable sectors of the community in the province. On July 16, the Campbell River Coalition to End Homelessness hosted a ZOOM meeting to discuss the former Rose Bowl restaurant’s role as a Bridge to housing.

Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness
Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness in pre COVID times – submitted photo

Will Twenty Beds Make An Impact?

“Will twenty beds will make an impact: absolutely! They will meet some of the needs of unsheltered people in our community, but no – it will not address all their needs,” said Kristi Schwanicke, Coordinator, Campbell River & District Coalition to End Homelessness. 

“To open the conversation up, and take a little of the pressure off, everything is not figured out yet,” began Cleo Corbett, Senior Planner with the City of Campbell River (a position created to address the housing crises and community development). “We have been working with BC Housing for a long and have an MOU for supportive housing.”

Last May the city of Campbell River announced a plan to provide up to 25 appropriately-distanced camping sites, but BC Housing came up with another idea. The former Rose Bowl restaurant is a solid building in an ideal downtown location. It can be used for supportive housing until other options are available and then adapted for other uses.

Vancouver Island Mental Health Society (VIMHS) has been operating similar facilities in Nanaimo for the past 30 years and will oversee daily operations of the building. 

Plan For The Rose Bowl

Taryn O’Flanagan, Executive Director of VIMHS, reemphasized the fact that their plan has only cone together in the last two weeks old idea that ‘there are still lots of moving parts’. Ideally, they want to staff the Rose Bowl 24/7, but that might not be possible right away. As for a start date: “asap.” 

“The final plan for how this is going to be set it up is determined. We will have twenty pods, not rooms. They are purpose build pods, ten by ten, that are spaced to provide social distancing. Following those guidelines we also lose a lot of space in the ground floor, which is the only floor we are authorized to use at this point.”

“The twenty residents that are selected will have their assigned space to make their own … It’s not ideal, in that people will not have their own rooms, but we are trying to step it up from a shelter in that people will have their own space.”

“ … Part of the design process was to create some social space, where we can a TV, a sitting area and place where residents can relax without having to be in their pods.”

She added, “This is for Campbell River residents and the process will be setting through the CA process is for community members experiencing homelessness … There will be no rent, as it is covered under shelter funding … Two meals are provided: breakfast and a hot dinner.”

Selection Process

All of the organizations taking part in the program should have a voice in the selecting residents. 

Some key questions are: Who is most vulnerable? Have they been chronically homeless for a long time? 

O’Flanagan says her organization learned a lot from their program in Nanaimo. 

“If we found someone isn’t managing well in our housing project, we can find somewhere else that is potentially a better fit and give that a try. Our goal is to reduce homelessness through eviction. 

Temporary Solution 

“When permit supported housing is operating, we hope to transition these resident to their forever hime. It is a temporary measure, but there is no time frame for anybody that lives there,” said O’Flanagan. 

She added, “My understanding is that this is a temporary measure, but will probably be still operating until we have a good idea of the folks who are still in need of housing and what the community looks like at that time. I know that BC housing has expressed to us that they do not have any current plans for that site, but that could change in the future.” 

The Bigger Picture

Schwanicke explained this development in relationship to other community endeavours. The province is helping to provide close to 120 affordable homes for people in Campbell River:

  • 41 units in the former Heritage Inn for victims of the recent fire at the Pacific West complex.
  • 49 units for women and children fleeing violence at the Fir Street residence.
  • the 27 at Linda’s Place will be for people with low to moderate incomes, including those with brain injuries.

“There is more in the works. BC Housing likes working with Campbell River. They know we have a tremendous need and they are behind. All of these projects, coming online so quickly, will have a tremendous impact over the course of the next six months,” said Schwanicke.

top photo credit: Screenshot of the Rose Bowl from Google maps

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