By Scott Stanfield – Comox Valley RecordPublished: October 09, 2013 1:00 PM
The Comox Valley Housing Task Force hosts a free community forum on affordable housing and homelessness this coming Wednesday at the Filberg Centre in Courtenay.

The day-long event — Building Housing Solutions Together — will address the importance of adequate housing, as well as health and well-being in the community. Along with panel discussions featuring experts from around Vancouver Island, the forum provides the public with an opportunity to share opinions and ideas. “The intention of the day is to be a conversation so that people are learning, and they’re also participating and voicing their opinions and concerns,” said Courtenay Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard, who chairs the Comox Valley Housing Task Force. “And helping build housing solutions.”

Leonard was inspired to pursue the forum after hearing a presentation at council from Lake Trail student Rachael Jancowski, who founded a non-profit organization called Gimme Shelter to help homeless individuals. “We want to make sure a broad range of the community will come out,” Leonard said. “We want to keep it family-friendly. We’re interested in building solutions; we’re not interested in increasing tensions.”

The itinerary includes five panel discussions:

  • 11:15 a.m. Building Capacity Grant Recipients: The task force dispersed $75,000 in grant funds last year to build community capacity to address homelessness. Recipients, including the Denman Land Trust, will discuss their achievements through this fund.
  • 12:30 p.m. Understanding the Issues: How does the lack of affordable housing impact the health and well-being of individuals and the community? Looking at the housing continuum, from outreach to market options, experts will discuss practices such as Housing First, supportive housing, transitional housing and emergency shelters. Speakers include Vancouver Island Health Authority medical health officer Charmaine Enns, Brad Crewsons of Pacifica Housing and representatives from BC Housing.
  • 3:15 p.m. Working Together, Challenges and Successes: Leaders from Island communities will discuss common challenges and successes. “We want to have a conversation about the potential for a ‘super regional approach,’ ” Leonard said. “Particularly homeless populations do tend to be more mobile, more transient. What happens in one community will impact another community. So how can we work better together?” The panel includes Marika Albert from the Social Community Planning Council in Victoria.
  • 4:30 p.m. Project Development and Gaining Acceptance: Moving forward on housing projects can be complex. Experts will discuss project development and ways in which communities can work together to support affordable housing development. BC Housing, a social planner from Nanaimo and Kevin Albers of the M’akola Housing Society will speak.
  • 7:15 p.m. Alternative Housing — The Art of the Possible: What are some affordable housing options? How can we increase our affordable housing stock? How can we build a community where everyone has a home? Representatives from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation will provide examples of innovative ways of building housing. In addition, Sandra Hamilton will discuss social enterprise and how it relates to building affordable housing.

The event includes a 2 p.m. play by the Black Top Players of the Eureka Support Society, and a 6 p.m. performance by Erik (Ice Blue) Eriksson. There will also be a kids’ zone, and a community sounding board where people can provide input.

The task force welcomes participation from developers.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com