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Used sea cans transformed into studio apartments to combat Island homelessness

Ninth WeCan Shelter home opens at Maple Pool Campground in Courtenay

The sea can home community at Maple Pool Campground in Courtenay continues to grow.

The ninth WeCan Shelter home was officially unveiled on Saturday, May 6, putting a roof over the head of another person in need in the community.

Ron (name changed) has lived in the Comox Valley for the past decade. He became the victim of the ever-increasing cost of rental units. On Saturday, he was given the keys to his new ‘tiny home’ – a sea can refurbished into a studio unit, with a bed, a kitchen, and a bathroom with a shower.

“I had an apartment that was unaffordable, so I left there (in the winter of 2022) and went to a cheaper place, and seven months later they decided to sell that. So I ended up being homeless, basically,” he said. “That’s been since last August and I was lucky enough to get involved with WeCan, to get a home here.”

Ron has started to become part of the community. He’s already met his neighbours, and said he is grateful to have been selected as a recipient of the latest WeCan Shelter home.

“It means home,” he said. “It means having a door that I can actually close behind me, and it’s my place.”

WeCan Shelter Society co-founder Charlene Davis hosted the event Saturday, and said the continued growth of the housing initiative is the result of the entire Comox Valley community coming together to help.

“The Courtenay Rotary Club sponsored the money for this one… but there are so many who contributed,” she said. “Modern Windows and Modern Doors both contributed, Mark Tizya will put the awning on this one like he has so many others, the Rotary Club of the Comox Valley - the young guys (newest local Rotary Club) have become the core group of volunteers. They just continue to show up… a few of their members have really embraced this project. We are also starting to attract a lot of people who have been homeless and want to help us, which is really interesting.”

Davis said choosing recipients is a consistent challenge, considering the range of issues facing many of those dealing with homelessness.

“We have learned a few hard lessons about which occupant should be chosen,” she said. “A lot of them need follow-up care and shepherding. Our group of volunteers are builders, not social workers, so we have to choose judiciously. Applicants come to us in a variety of ways, various social agencies, Island Health, and word of mouth, and are selected based on their ability to live independently and cohesively with others.”

The one hard and fast rule is that the recipient must be homeless.

“They have to be vaccinated and be homeless; couch surfing, camping, living out of a vehicle, etc.,” said Davis.

The 10th sea can has already been purchased and is in the production stages.

“We have bought the container and it is at the welders, with the windows and doors being cut out.”

Davis said the evolution of the WeCan Shelter Society as a whole has been a wonder to witness.

“We started three years ago and sort of just clutched everything together, made it work, built up some momentum, and now we have established ourselves as an entity that lots of people know about, which is great. I don’t have to explain things, and people realize that this is a good place to put their energy… there is a tangible result to the money and the contribution that they make, and that is worth its weight in gold to people.”

“The need is not going to be diminished in any way, shape or form, so we will just keep on going.”

As for Ron?

“I will sleep great tonight.”

ALSO: WeCan Shelter Society unveils seventh and eighth sea can homes at Maple Pool
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Terry Farrell

About the Author: Terry Farrell

Terry returned to Black Press in 2014, after seven years at a daily publication in Alberta. He brings 14 years of editorial experience to Comox Valley Record...
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