By Renee Andor – Comox Valley Record
Published: February 21, 2013 3:00 PM, Updated: February 21, 2013 3:49 PM
“We need a new homeless shelter.” Thirteen-year-old Lake Trail Middle School student Rachael Jancowski told Courtenay council she came to this conclusion after talking to various community members who help the Comox Valley’s homeless. During her presentation to council Monday, Jancowski said she believes the Salvation Army’s Pidcock House Emergency Shelter isn’t enough to shelter the Valley’s homeless. “Fourteen to 15 people come to the Pidcock House daily; there is not enough room,” she said pointing out there are 14 beds at the emergency shelter. “On a weekly basis, they have to turn people away.”
She also noted 270-plus people are homeless in the Valley. Jancowski started investigating homelessness in the Comox Valley as part of an I Can project for school. She said the project turned into a non-profit organization, which she’s dubbed Gimme Shelter. She noted a need for more transitional housing, community awareness, medical care, education and support for homeless people during her presentation, besides a need for a new homeless shelter. “We are lacking transitional housing,” she said. “We need a new homeless shelter. Now, if a new homeless shelter is a real possibility where should it go? There is a lot of NIMBY — Not In My Back Yard.”
She later pointed to some simple ways anyone in the community can help homeless people. “We need to raise awareness about the homeless; we need to reach out and help,” she said. “We can donate warm clothes and blankets, we can bake cookies or muffins and go downtown and give the homeless a treat. We can volunteer at the soup kitchen. We, as a community, can give them hope.” Although she noted there are volunteer caseworkers — which is a person who works to helps homeless get a permanent home and job — she pointed out there is only one permanent caseworker in the community.
Jancowski plans to help homeless people this spring through volunteer work, and she plans to contact other non-profit organizations about the issue. She also said council should expect to hear from her again soon on the matter.
Couns. Ronna-Rae Leonard and Bill Anglin commended Jancowski on having the courage to present in council chambers, and Anglin noted she is not only talking about the issue but taking action as well. Mayor Larry Jangula also thanked Jancowski for her presentation, noting he agrees community support in the form of food, blankets and clothing can go a long way to helping the Comox Valley’s homeless.