Community strives to feed and house its most vulnerable

Organization created in response to the death of David Alton partners with community groups to combat hunger and homelessness.

An organization founded in response to the death of a local homeless man last winter is teaming up with local churches and the Ladysmith Resources Centre Association to feed the hungry next week.

The Ladysmith Homeless Aid Committee, the LRCA and volunteers from Bethel Tabernacle are teaming up to serve hot dogs and hamburgers to Ladysmith’s “financially vulnerable” at Market Square at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, said LRCA program manager Cindy Warren.

Volunteers with the LHAC and Social Planning Cowichan will then conduct a survey on low-income housing needs in Ladysmith, Warren added.

Founded by Barb Bodaly, Bruce Mason and Tim Solloway following the death of their longtime friend and acquaintance David Alton last January, the LHAC’s membership has since expanded to include town councillors, an RCMP officer, MLA Doug Routley and representatives from various advocacy organizations, churches and concerned citizens’ groups.

“The mission of the committee is to provide cold- or extreme-weather shelter to people who are homeless,” Warren explained. “At this point we are working with Kevan Griffith, property manager for the Balmoral Hotel supportive housing complex in Nanaimo. They will provide space if we transport people there on nights when there is extreme weather and pick them up the next morning.”

Before they can move forward with their project, though, Warren said they “need to know the scope of homelessness in Ladysmith.”

Physical outreach will be a key means of ascertaining the housing needs of low-income members of the community, Warren added, and she hopes these efforts will help the LHAC determine the number of people who would use a cold-weather shelter.

The plight of Ladysmith’s most vulnerable residents was brought to light when Alton’s body was discovered in a dugout at Aggie Field Jan. 14, 2013.

When Alton crossed paths with Mason a few days prior to his death, he informed Mason that he had been evicted from his apartment and that he had been left homeless as a result.

Mason described his former high school classmate as “obviously not well” the last time they spoke. Alton’s clothes were “falling apart” and he looked so thin and haggard that Mason didn’t recognize him at first.

Temperatures dropped to near zero — and possibly below zero — the night Alton is thought to have died. According to Environment Canada, the final reading for Nanaimo Airport, recorded at 9 p.m. on the night of January 13, reads 0.1 C.

Alton’s death was “quite tragic,” Mason said, adding that “it shouldn’t have happened and hopefully it will never happen to anyone else in town.”

Preliminary tests conducted by the BC Coroners Service were inconclusive and the results of subsequent tests were expected “by late spring at best.”

The results of those tests are now in the “final editing process,” said BCCS spokesperson Barb McLintock last Thursday, and they will be released to the public “in approximately three weeks.”






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