There has been another death at one of the temporary tenting areas for the homeless set up in the Cowichan Valley.
A statement from Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour said a band member died on June 26 at the tenting site on Government Street known as The Mound, which is owned by the Cowichan Tribes.
Seymour didn’t identify the man, or say how he died, in his statement.
“He felt safe here [at the tent site], instead of on the streets,” Seymour said.
“He was looking forward to moving into a hotel or home. He was always respectful and tried to visit his family as much as he could, especially his father. He always acknowledged people, he was very helpful, and always had a smile on his face. I send my condolences to the families in sorrow.”
The Mound is one of five temporary tent sites established in May to allow those that are homeless or precariously housed in the Valley to shelter-in-place with the appropriate food and other services during the COVID-19 crisis.
Chris Macdonald, 43, died in his tent at the tent site at Fuller Lake Park last month.
Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples, who is a member of the COVID-19 Task Force for Vulnerable Populations, said the deaths at the tent sites are “horrible”, but acknowledged that deaths are not unusual among the homeless community.
“Before we established the tent sites, there were a number of deaths among the homeless in the community, but at least we know where they are now and the tent sites allow us the opportunity to work with these people to try to make a difference in their lives and give them some stability,” she said.
“Overall, things are going well at the tent sites and we’re having a lot of successes with the people there. We’re also getting a lot of positive feedback from the community in general.”
BC Housing and Emergency Management BC provided the funding to establish the COVID-19 Task Force for Vulnerable Populations in May with a mandate to develop short-term plans to provide housing and support for Cowichan Valley’s homeless during the health crisis.
The task force, which the City of Duncan was asked to organize, includes representatives from service organizations, Island Health, local governments, First Nations, school district, health care professionals, community members, and peer representatives.
The task force was given enough funding to cover the costs of the tent sites until June 30, but Staples said that funding has been extended for two more weeks.
“We’re trying to work out what is possible,” she said.
“We have 107 people at the five sites and we’re concerned about what will happen to them if we put them back on the streets. We’re also still likely just at the beginning of this pandemic so the need for these sites is still there.”
After years of advocacy from the Valley’s local governments and other agencies, construction is expected to begin this fall on approximately 100 supportive housing units for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in the Cowichan Valley.
BC Housing has acquired two sites — 2983 Drinkwater Rd. in North Cowichan and 260 White Rd. in Duncan — to develop what the agency describes as “safe, secure housing with wraparound supports”.