Social Planning Cowichan presented its yearly review to the Town of Lake Cowichan at the regular council meeting last Tuesday at the town hall.
Kathleen Sheppard was on hand to present SPC’s report, with council members still concerned with the lack of options available for the homeless.
“We conducted a homeless survey of 259 people over 48 hours,” said Sheppard at the meeting. “We don’t believe the number surveyed captures everybody, but it was a good survey nonetheless. It resulted in us going to food banks and various shelters.”
From the findings, SPC concluded that 22 per cent of the homeless people surveyed in the valley are “absolutely homeless” and on the street, 29 per cent of those people are “relatively homeless” and in transitional housing, and 48 per cent of those people are in “unaffordable, overcrowded and poor housing conditions.”
Of the 22 per cent that are completely homeless, over 60 per cent have been without housing for a year, according to Sheppard.
“Affordable housing is a key priority of ours and we’ve moved to make Affordable Housing Cowichan as an independent organization,” she said. “We’ll also be updating the status of our community report as it’s been four years since the last one.”
Sheppard confirmed that SPC knows of over 100 people in the Cowichan Valley who are in absolute homelessness and a similar number in relative homelessness.
Over 2,000 people have been estimated to be in precarious housing.
Coun. Jayne Ingram is council’s representative to Social Planning Cowichan and confirmed that there are seven people in some form of homeless situation within the Town of Lake Cowichan.
“With affordable housing becoming a separate entity, there will be more time dedicated to it and that will make a big difference,” said Ingram. “It now has a very specific focus.”
Coun. Bob Day believes affordable housing to be a big issue and one that needs rectified as soon as possible.
“I don’t see a lot of (homeless) people on our streets but it’s about having housing that people on the minimum wage or those that work in the grocery store can afford,” he said.
Sheppard stated that “the thing that stood out was the number of people that are on precarious housing are indeed homeless.”
Mayor Ross Forrest asked what the hopes are for those who are in absolute homelessness.
“Of the 100 or so that are absolutely homeless, what are their chances of finding a place? The money is not going to show up for them,” said the mayor.
“At this current stage, their options are not extensive,” she said.