Drew A. Penner/Echo Staff / Comox Valley Echo – October 7, 2014 09:14 AM

There’s a pile of sticks gathered together in the Monday night darkness from the old overhanging tree branches that have a tendency to snap in stormy weather. There are tents here nestled in the trees at Maple Pool that seem damp and are exposed to hazards such as these falling tree branches.
For some in downtown Courtenay this is the only home they have. They may be waiting for a trailer or other accommodation that offers more protection from the elements – but for now they’re here.
The help from organizations like Dawn 2 Dawn, which provides refurbished trailers to those in need, is essential to getting many people at the lower end of the wealth spectrum back on their feet.

The Comox Valley Regional District has been looking at ways to help these more economically disadvantaged people, by trying to set up a regional entity that would supercharge help for the homeless, but have had trouble forging a path to do so. Now the public will be asked in non-binding public opinion poll if they want to pitch in towards a broader effort to help homeless people across the region.

But first local councils were required to approve the public opinion poll.
And that’s something that hasn’t come easily, at least in the Village of Cumberland.
Councillors still have a very recent memory of pitching in towards a similar drive recently that netted a piece of property to be turned into a homeless shelter that didn’t pan out.
The feeling around the Village council table Sept. 30 was that Cumberland has a responsibility to help its own swath of homeless first and foremost.

“My concern is what’s happening within the Village itself,” said Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird. “Because we do have homeless here and we need to address that.”
However, a public opinion poll that showed how many Cumberland residents were in support of helping homeless people could be used to boost support for Cumberland-centric programs and services, she noted.

“I would like to hear from the people of Cumberland how they feel about this issue,” she said.
Coun. Gwyn Sproule said the referendum is a way of testing the waters to see what people have to say.

“I am concerned because we did help before and where did it get us?” she said, acknowledging something needs to be done on a regional basis. “It is a burden on the whole of the Comox Valley having homeless people living everywhere.”

Coun. Kate greening said if you want to help homeless people you should give to people on an individual basis.

“I still think the City of Courtenay and the regional district have done nothing much at all. They bought land. They sold land. They sold it at a loss,” she said. “And now they’ve come back to say, So how much money can we get out of the people to solve the problem for homelessness? But they have actually no plan. All they have planned is to find out how much money they can get.”

Along with Coun. Conner Copeman she got a motion on the table that would forgo the public opinion poll on homelessness in Cumberland. That motion was defeated 3-2.

In the end Cumberland’s elected officials agreed to go along with the CVRD’s plan to hold a non-binding public opinion poll to gauge the interest of local residents in helping fight homelessness, although councillors Greening and Copeman voted against the motion.


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