Comox Valley Echo
Original Article:

Considerable progress is at last being made in addressing homelessness in the Comox Valley, the president of Dawn to Dawn, Richard Clarke, told the action on homelessness society’s annual meeting on Tuesday (Sept 29).

“These past 12 months have been quite eventful and very positive for Dawn to Dawn, our clients and other individuals facing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness,” he told members and supporters gathered at Courtenay Library.

In addition to the society’s own initiatives, he praised the positive actions of other organizations in the Valley and different levels of government that are striving to work more closely together to maximize the impact of their efforts.

While he acknowledged there is still much more to do, there had been notable progress over the past 12 months – with the possibility of even more in the future if there is a positive outcome to a local referendum on the matter being proposed by Comox Valley Regional District.

“While the proposal (in the referendum) will not generate a huge sum of money, it will be helpful,” he commented. “More importantly, approval by voters will send a clear message to senior levels of government that this community is serious about ending homelessness.”

Clarke said among”heartwarming” moves by the BC Government had been its recent announcements to buy the Washington Inn apartment complex; its offer of additional financial support for improved facilities at the Salvation Army Pidcock House emergency shelter; and its contribution to the refurbishment of the former Laurel Lodge to become Amethyst House.

He also welcomed moves on the City of Courtenay’s Braidwood supportive housing project; and initiatives by Island Health to establish an Intensive Case Management Team for people with mental health issues, and its support for Comox Valley Transition Society’s enhanced rehabilitation services for women.

As far as Dawn to Dawn itself is concerned, Clarke welcomed financial support from BC Housing for its innovative scattered housing program. The province is providing essential funds towards rental and utility subsidies as well as administration, and has supported Dawn to Dawn’s homeless prevention program to house at least a further 20 people.

“This funding has been very helpful, and given our cost-efficient model we are currently housing 42 persons, including 13 children,” he explained.

The challenge has not been one of finding people to help, but in tracking down additional individual housing units the society can rent to provide a roof over clients’ heads in what continues to be a tight rental market.

Because of the lack of available one-bedroom units, Clarke noted, Dawn to Dawn had frequently not been able to offer immediate support, but it had progressively ramped up its efforts as additional rental units were identified and brought in to the program. More units are still needed, he added, and he urged any property owners interesting in finding out more to contact the society.

In outline, the program reimburses landlords for the full rent of cost-effective privately owned units, with clients contributing what they can afford and Dawn to Dawn taking responsibility for the remainder to help people get on their feet. The program is intended to house clients first and then link them to appropriate support services such as education, employment counselling and health services.

Clarke paid tribute to Dawn to Dawn members who had worked on securing more grant aid and public donations for the society’s work. Among successes were funding from BC Gaming for its recreational program, which – in combination with the BC Housing support – has enabled Dawn to Dawn to employ Grant Shilling, its dedicated outreach worker, on a full-time basis for the first time.

“We have also continued to receive some support for our recreational program from the Comox Valley Regional District, and the cooperation of the City of Courtenay in the use of its recreational facilities,” Clarke added.

On top of government-related funding, community support for Dawn to Dawn had continued to grow, he noted, with the help of fund-raising appeals, special events and estate legacies. One of the latest supporters is United Way on the North Island, which is offering $5,000 towards Dawn to Dawn’s initiatives.

Clarke praised the way a Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness had come together this year, an alliance of organizations that has now drawn up a draft five year program to address homelessness and the support services people without homes – or in danger of being without a home – need. Dawn to Dawn is member of the coalition.

Clarke said he was one of those who believed it was primarily senior levels of government that had the responsibility, resources and services to end homeless, but that could only be done with local coordination and support. He hoped the new coalition could help focus on both the needs and the opportunities to make a real difference in the Comox Valley going forward.

The annual meeting elected the following officers for the next 12 months: president Richard Clarke, vice-president Evangeline Mathura, secretary Judy Brooks and treasurer Kristi Meier.