Extended funding allows Courtenay shelter to remain open 24-7

Funding from B.C. Housing that helped Pidcock House operate on a 24/7 basis until March 31 has been extended until the end of June.

A HOMELESS MAN keeps warm with help from the Salvation Army.

A HOMELESS MAN keeps warm with help from the Salvation Army.

Funding from B.C. Housing that helped Pidcock House operate on a 24/7 basis until March 31 has been extended until the end of June.While the money provided for a further 14 beds at the Courtenay shelter, Salvation Army community ministry director Brent Hobden wishes the funding was permanent. “At least temporary funding does help us a little bit,” he said. Last year, Pidcock House provided 4,739 beds, served 8,371 hot meals, and prepared hundreds of bagged lunches for guests. Last month, it served 924 meals and operated at 103 per cent capacity. In January, the shelter accommodated its highest numbers ever, using 550 beds and serving 970 meals. Hobden does not feel the higher volume of visitors has anything to do with the extended hours. “There are a lot more people coming into the Valley that are needing help,” he said. “We served 269 distinct individuals in 2011.”He notes a greater demand on services this year, in keeping with a trend that has emerged the last five years.Hobden said an average of two to three people per week are turned away at Pidcock due to a lack of space.”That doesn’t happen during inclement weather, it’s only when weather conditions are reasonable that we’re forced to turn away because that’s one of the B.C. Housing stipulations,” he said.Cumberland Coun. Roger Kishi, program director at the Wachiay Friendship Centre, said the Valley contains subsidized housing for seniors and families but lacks accommodations — namely SROs (single room occupancy) — for individuals. While inexpensive rent exceeds $500 a month, Kishi said a person on government assistance receives $375 a month for housing.He notes the regional district’s 2010 purchase of property in the 800 block of Cliffe Avenue, intended to house a 24/7 shelter, is up in the air. “Everyone’s waiting to hear what Courtenay is doing,” Kishi said. “We should go for our biggest bang for the buck. You look at who’s accessing services like the food bank, a lot of it is working poor families. People are having problems just getting by…A lot of people are paying a lot of whatever they earn just for housing.”Hobden concurs the Valley needs a new shelter with a transitional housing component. “There is an overall shortage of housing in the Valley, whether it’s SROs, whether it’s transition housing,” Hobden said. “But we recognize that’s only one small portion of the continuum. We need to look at the whole broad spectrum.”reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Comox Valley Record