For Rent sign with the words 'sorry rented' across it in red

The rural housing and service needs survey

The Strathcona Regional District is in the midst of a 30 day survey of rural housing insecurity and service needs. The Campbell River and District Coalition to end homelessness emailed copies to every Vancouver Island Regional Library in the district. There was a network of volunteers ready to work with them on Cortes Island and individual volunteers on Quadra, but some areas can only be reached through social media. The survey comes to an end on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

Screenshot of Stefanie Hendrickson from the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness taken during interview

“I would love for people to take a look at the survey. It only takes 10 minutes. It is geared towards those who feel that their housing situation is either unaffordable or inappropriate for any reason. Or those who feel that they have service needs that are not being met in their community,” said Stefanie Hendrickson, the coalition’s coordinator.

The survey was designed to identify the needs of people living in a seasonal rental, outbuilding, RV, or sleeping on someone’s couch. There are also multiple families who live under one roof to make it affordable, or in places that lack running water or plumbing, or refrigeration etc. Some people have accessibility or other physical needs that are not met where they live. Others cannot afford the rent, or are working in different communities from where they live.

Hendrickson said that the coalition has been in communication with the Cortes Community Housing Society throughout the whole process. 

“We were initially going to do our own survey and then got connected to the Campbell River and District to End Homelessness and realized they were doing something very similar,” said Mark Vonesch, from the Cortes Community Housing Society. 

So the two groups partnered on one survey. 

Vonesch says that everywhere he goes on Cortes, the number one issue is housing. 

“Whether you’re talking to business folks who have trouble finding housing for their employees, or people who’ve been here all their life and can’t find stable year round housing. The number of people, living in vans, on boats and in unstable housing is alarmingly high,” he said. “Since I’ve been on Cortes, you hear stories of single mothers and young families having to move out of their place in June and live in tents or shelter for the summer and then struggled to find housing again in the fall.  That’s an ongoing cycle for so many people on the island. I think we all know somebody who is dealing with that or has dealt with it in the past.” 

He spoke from personal experience both as an employer, whose employees needed accommodation, and as a tenant.

A couple of community members and the local food bank helped promote the survey on Quadra Island, but the coalition did not have any contacts on Read Island.

There are some unique needs on islands like Cortes. 

“Things such as people having to leave the community to access educational needs when their children reach a certain age, or folks living on boats,” said Hendrickson.

She added that while a homeless person in Campbell River can camp out in Nuns Creek Park, the islands don’t have a designated area. 

The coalition reached out to communities like Gold River, Tahsis and Sayward through the Vancouver Island Regional Library,

“Other than that, we are really relying on social media. The SRD has actually supported this, so they have a link up on their website where people can access it.  We’ve been really relying on word of mouth, getting people to email the survey link to their contact lists and a few community newsletters have picked it up,” explained Hendrickson.

“It’s quite a unique way of doing surveying,  but given the vast region and how rural and remote it is, it was sort of decided that would really be the only way to get the word out to as many people as possible.”

The Strathcona Regional District – courtesy SRD website

This is the first time the ‘Campbell River and District to End Homelessness’ has surveyed the SRD’s rural areas. 

They did conduct ‘Point in Time’ counts in Campbell River during 2021 and 2018.

“Those are probably more accurately described as a homeless count where we’re taking 24 hours and trying to find as many individuals as we can in that timeframe. We focused on unsheltered homelessness. They are only for Campbell River, they aren’t for the broader region and they don’t do a great job about those who are struggling in other ways,” explained Hendrickson.  

“With this survey, we are looking at a much broader picture and it’s a 30 day survey. So that gets people a lot more time to connect, whereas with the point-in-time count where we just have that 24 hour window.” 

There is currently only anecdotal evidence for housing insecurity in rural areas like the Discovery Islands, Gold River and Tahsis.

“Hopefully we can paint a really good picture of what’s needed. What are the demographics of people that are struggling. What do they need?” she said.

“This data will be for agencies, community groups, grassroots housing societies like you have on Cortes, various levels of government. It can be used by people to apply for funding to support housing and service needs, Influence and inform their housing and service policies and practices that they’re creating. We really hope that  it’s quite usable data, not just for us, but for the broader region.”

Vonesch added, “This is a regional district survey but we are going to get the results purely for Cortes island. We’re going to be able to really narrow down our focus as a community and say, ‘look this is what we’re seeing and where we’re seeing it. One of the cool things about the survey is there’s also talking about the solutions. What would  people on Cortes have an appetite for as far as creating change around this issue? The results of the survey are also going to allow us to leverage those results and apply for funding to do projects on Cortes.”

Click here to participate in the Survey 

Top image credit: Rented by Our Home Art via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Sign-up for Cortes Currents email-out:

To receive an emailed catalogue of articles on Cortes Currents, send a (blank) email to subscribe to your desired frequency: