Advocates for the homeless prepare for winter in a pandemic

Winter presents unique challenges to people experiencing homelessness this year in Campbell River

Campbell River’s homelessness service providers are facing a different kind of winter this year.

“We’re preparing for all possible scenarios,” said Sue Moen, Salvation Army shelter worker and one of the leaders of the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness. “I’m working on the assumption that [COVID-19] will come to the shelter. Unless the trajectory of community spread changes very soon, right now it is looking like at some point it will hit our populations and make it into the shelters.”

Because of the pandemic, resources that would be available to people experiencing homelessness are limited. Physical distancing, increased cleaning and changes to staffing levels all play a part in what could be a difficult winter for Campbell River’s population of people experiencing homelessness and those who work with them.

“The public health orders and requirements are not easy to support people to follow,” Moen said. “People experiencing homelessness are in a constant state of crisis and high anxiety, so when you add the anxiety about the pandemic to that, and then ask them to develop a whole new set of habits, it’s a big challenge on the agencies supporting them. It adds to the emotional and mental toll of the work that we already do.”

RELATED: Parksville still searching for cold weather homeless shelter answers

RELATED: Homeless need respite from wildfire smoke, says Victoria councillor

These agencies have had to change much of their operations to fit the new challenges. Some of these changes have not been fleshed out yet, but agencies are ensuring the services that people rely on are stable.

“Certainly, we have seen a lot of changes there. All organizations are trying to adapt and trying to keep services going with new delivery models. I think every organization is going through that, including us,” said Cleo Corbett, a senior planner with the city of Campbell River whose focus is on housing, community development and supports for people in vulnerable situations.

“Where people used to go to the library to access a computer, or go to the Salvation Army Lighthouse to access service. Those services are closed or modified in some way,” she added. “We’re looking at how we can reopen the community centre safely and how we can balance our response to the pandemic while also keeping services available to people.”

However, a few new developments have taken place that could reduce some of the strain on the system. The new beds at the former Rosebowl Restaurant and the development at 580 Dogwood Street that will also be open sometime this winter will add 70 units are examples. More beds are also in the works with various other projects

“I am really proud and grateful of all the work that the city has done with BC housing to get so many projects going in Campbell River,” Corbett said. “If we look at everything that’s either been approved or been applied for in 2020, it’s approximately $45 million in investments. It is tremendous.”

Service providers do feel more prepared for a second wave of COVID-19 based on their experiences from the start of the pandemic. During the first six months, several different funding streams have opened up that did not exist before. Also, funds for emergencies are different from funds for regular cold weather shelters.

“If in the dialogue with BC Housing we start to talk again about an emergency response, as opposed to an extreme weather response, then there are other resources that are possibly available,” Moen explained.

Despite the challenges, both Moen and Corbett noted how much progress has been made, and how the crisis has brought a community together to make improvements.

RELATED: Province wants to work with Nanaimo on 60-bed ‘navigation centre’ shelter

RELATED: Campbell River housing project in former restaurant nears completion

Corbett explained that “the work that [the Coalition] did to really coordinate all of the service providers through the pandemic, having weekly meetings, weekly and sometimes daily information bulletins about what services are available where and how people can access them… was not only for the city and service providers, but it was also geared towards letting people experiencing homelessness know where they could access service.”

“Faced with a crisis, people chip in, they do their darndest and they do their best,” Moen added. “Community agencies and officials and the guests at the shelter stepped up in the early days and chipped in here… They’re helping with laundry, helping keep the place clean, cleaning up after themselves. Despite the fear and the uncertainty of the people accessing services that are unsheltered, they’re very respectful of those services and of all of the new things we ask them to do to access those services.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Housing and Homelessness

Just Posted

Leila Bui with her parents Tuan (left) and Kairry Nguyen. The family says they are relieved the trial process has come to close Monday morning with Tenessa Nikirk found guilty of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sentencing begins for distracted driver in collision that left 11-year-old Island girl in coma

Leila Bui has been in a non-responsive state since she was hit at a Saanich crosswalk in 2017

Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor has expressed concerns about the excessive freighters parked in the Salish Sea for quite some time. (Photo submitted)
MacGregor introduces bill to address freighter anchorages

Concerns about the environment, noise, pollution and safety abundant

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Victoria police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

Campbell River's new hospital, July 2018
Nurse diverts opiates and falsifies records at Campbell River Hospital

Nurse facing disciplinary action for moving opiates out of the hospital

Premier-elect John Horgan, during a visit in Sidney, broadly promised improvements to transit among other issues in the riding of Saanich North and the Islands, even after voters re-elected BC Green Adam Olsen as Member of the Legislative Assembly. (Black Press Media file photo)
Premier-elect John Horgan promises to work with all MLAs and for all ridings

‘There are a whole bunch of views in the community and they need to be heard and I intend to listen.’

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Can you spot all 12 Days of Christmas displays at the Butchart Gardens? Jen Blyth photo.
The magic of Christmas returns to the Butchart Gardens

Some events cancelled due to COVID-10 but 12 Days of Christmas will brighten the season

B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

Victoria police are looking for high-risk offender Douglas McPherson. (Courtesy of VicPD)
High-risk parolee with history of bank robbery believed to be in Victoria

Police ask for public’s help locating 64-year-old parolee

A modular unit is lifted into place on the supportive housing complex at 580 Dogwood Street on Oct. 22. Photo by Cleo Corbett/City of Campbell River
Campbell River’s newest supportive housing facility rises on Dogwood Street

Pre-fab modular construction means the building can go on the foundation in under five days

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who rammed a police car to escape an arrest attempt. (File photo)
Drug trafficking suspect rams police vehicle in Nanaimo and escapes arrest

Suspect still at large after fleeing from police in Harewood on Friday afternoon

Const. Graham Walker of the Saanich Traffic Safety Unit recreates an incident involving a driver who police say attempted to film the scene of a crash while driving up Highway 17. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Police track down driver caught filming accident scene on Pat Bay Highway

Driver issued $368 ticket, points on their licence

Most Read