Initiatives to deal with issues on the streets around BC Housing’s new supportive housing development on Paddle Road have been truly remarkable, according to North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring.
Siebring told council at a recent meeting that calls to police and bylaw officials from the area have dropped from an average of 15 per month from June through August this year to just two calls in September.
“The concerns around street disorder in the Paddle Road area are getting better,” he said.
Siebring said that early this summer, the municipality was hearing considerable concerns about an increased level of street disorder, including complaints about discarded needles, loitering and other problems since the opening of the Sq’umul’ Shelh Lelum’ supportive housing project.
The facility opened in April and is intended for people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness in North Cowichan.
The four-storey structure with 52 individual studio suites is the first facility of its kind in the region.
The province, through BC Housing, invested approximately $13.7 million in the project through the Building BC: Supportive Housing Fund, and is providing an annual operating subsidy of approximately $1.2 million.
“Things were serious enough that the manager of Island Ford contacted us to complain about things going on in his dealership’s parking lot,” he said.
“He felt he had no choice but to put up a fence around the dealership property to deal with the issues. At the time, he also said he would contribute some money to help with clean-up efforts.”
Siebring said that instead, he and senior staff facilitated meetings with local business owners, BC Housing and the Lookout Housing and Health Society which operates Sq’umul’ Shelh Lelum’.
He said those meetings resulted in a commitment from BC Housing and the LHHS to implement an ongoing street clean-up project run by the residents of the facility, and that has had some very positive results.
“The peer-clean up program has resulted in pride of residency and ownership among the people living there,” he said.
“We always suspected that the problems on the street were not so much caused by the residents as by those visiting them, and those visits seem to have slowed down. The residents are saying to their friends that they’re not welcome there if they are going to make a mess or be disruptive.”
Siebring said the trend towards the better is also reflected in what the municipality heard from Island Ford in a meeting a few weeks ago.
“Island Ford said they’re now considering not putting up a fence and that if a fence does go ahead, it will be due to the increase in density in the area,” he said.
“BC Housing and the LHHS have also started having regular meetings with the neighbours to stay on top of this.”