Pamela Munroe – Special to the Record
The Comox Valley Social Planning Society works with organizations and citizens dedicated to developing a healthy community through the promotion of social, economic, and environmental well-being. The mission of the Society is to promote social planning as a process for developing a healthy community in the Comox Valley. For 2014/2015 the Society is focusing on homelessness and affordable housing issues in our community.
As part of that mission the Social Planning Society sponsors brown-bag lunches that bring together agencies in the Comox Valley who provide support for various activities related to the physical, emotional, and financial well-being of all citizens of the Comox Valley. The most recent brown bag lunch focused on how agencies and clients are affected by homelessness in the Comox Valley. As well as the usual agency attendees, candidates vying for council seats in the Comox Valley were invited and several came and participated in the discussion.
According to the Canadian Homelessness Research Network (2012) homelessness describes the situation of an individual or family without stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it.
It has been estimated that there are up to 300 people in the Comox Valley who are homeless and 3,000 people at risk. Those at risk include women and children leaving abusive relationships, youth leaving foster care, persons with mental health and/or addiction challenges, workers in low-wage, part-time, temporary positions.
Agencies at the brown bag lunch reported on children in school without adequate food or clothing, adults unable to fill in forms for social assistance because of lack of functional literacy skills, youth leaving foster care with no job or housing prospects, friends couch surfing with friends because their jobs don’t pay enough to afford decent rental housing, single moms who have moved five times in one year because of inadequate and expensive housing options.
A co-ordinated Comox Valley effort will be necessary to bring about viable, affordable, and appropriate solutions for the challenges faced by our neighbours and friends in this community. One of the steps in getting that co-ordinated effort could be to have the Comox Valley Regional District create a regional service that supports finding the resources to actually build and maintain affordable and supportive housing options. In order to create that service there must be community agreement that tax dollars will be used to support it. The question on the ballot on Nov. 15 is one way of gauging the community’s willingness for this. The question is: “How much annual property tax would you be willing to pay to reduce homelessness in the Comox Valley.”
Choices on the ballot are: $0, $5 per year on a $300,000 property, or $10 per year on a $300,000 property.
The Comox Valley Social Planning Society encourages all citizens of the Comox Valley to participate in the upcoming election and show their support for action on homelessness and housing affordability in this Valley.