Editorial: Housing continuity for Island’s homeless just makes sense

Doing this in a seamless manner is the best answer

It only makes sense.

The COVID-19 Vulnerable Population Cowichan Task Force has asked BC Housing to extend funding for its five temporary tent sites for the homeless, and allowance for people housed in area hotels. The idea is to move people directly from these temporary sites into the 100 units of supportive housing that are set to be built at two sites in Duncan and North Cowichan.

Doing this in a seamless manner is the best answer for both the community, and the homeless at the temporary sites.

RELATED: Extension given for Cowichan region homeless tenting sites

RELATED: B.C. tent camps persist as hotels, housing bought for homeless

Getting people into the tenting sites and hotel rooms means contact has already been made. The homeless folks, living in their new locations now for several months, have gotten used to a certain amount of structure and oversight, something that will also be present at the supportive housing.

Having these folks dispersed back out onto the streets before they are transitioned into supportive housing just makes things needlessly complicated. First, contact would have to be made all over again, and second, all of that acclimation to a more structured environment would be lost, and they’d be starting all over again at zero.

This is vital because the end goal is to fit these people back into our larger society — get them off the streets and living as fully functioning, independent citizens. This will require them to get used to living within our community structures again, something that is completely broken down when they are trying to survive on the street. Some have been on the street for years, and it’s a big adjustment.

The temporary tent camps and hotel rooms have offered a bridge, of sorts, a small taste of a more regular routine. Just being able to go back to the same place to sleep every night is a comfort, and a big step for some.

As the supportive housing is being built as modular housing which will take only a matter of months to erect (it took three in Nanaimo), and construction is expected to begin soon, it’s possible that the housing will be ready early in the new year, if not sooner.

As we look ahead to fall and winter, an expected second wave of COVID-19, along with cold weather that often requires the opening of temporary night shelter for the homeless anyway, it really only makes sense to extend the current tent camps until the new housing is ready.

Keeping the continuity for housing Cowichan’s homeless will save a lot of headaches and duplication of effort down the road.

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