When I first arrived on scene at the Mariner Apartments, Jan. 11 to report on the flood, what I saw gave me pause for thought.
A disposal bin, filled to capacity with furniture, mattresses, bedding, and other household items, all ruined by a flood due to failing Town infrastructure.
“There’s another bin on its way,” said the building manager.
Soon-to-be evicted residents, still unsure of where they were even going, were pushing shopping carts through the parking lot to awaiting vehicles.
Later that afternoon, they would all get word that, due to the flood, their tenancies had been terminated and they were left to their own devices to find shelter.
The residents of 17 floor-level units at the Comox apartment building were effectively homeless, through no fault of their own.
The tenants woke up to flooding apartments the previous morning, the result of a Town of Comox water main break.
The water main ruptured at 5:30 a.m. and the flow was shut off less than 40 minutes later, but by then, the damage was done.
The entire bottom floor of the Mariner Apartments was flooded out.
The Town of Comox, and the Mariner landlord, will leave the judgement of responsibility to their respective insurance companies.
Eventually, the repairs will be complete, and the affected suites will be put up for rent again.
Meanwhile, there are dozens of newly homeless people in the Comox Valley.
It reminded me of my younger years in Edmonton, when I lived in an apartment, worked as a bartender, and lived paycheque to paycheque. It was only by the grace of good fortune that nothing like this ever happened to me.
I felt so much empathy for these victims. The Town, and the landlord, have, to date, offered little, if any support.
The following Tuesday, I had lunch with Island MusicFest executive director Doug Cox. I filled him in on the situation.
“I feel awful. I wish I could do more,” I said.
That’s when Doug said “We could put on a fundraiser – a benefit concert. If you can find the venue, I am sure I could book the bands.”
And so it began.
We looked at dates, and Doug pointed out that he already had the Native Sons Hall booked for a concert on Feb. 8. If we could get in there a day early and be allowed to leave the stage set-up overnight, it would be very convenient.
I called Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells and pitched the idea. Within 24 hours, we had the venue.
The Helping Hands Benefit Concert will be an all-ages event, with six bands, silent auction items, door prizes, 50/50 draws, and an overabundance of the kind of goodwill for which the Comox Valley has gained such a positive reputation.
We are actively seeking silent auction items. Please contact me at the Record newsroom if you can help with an auction item.
A crowdfunding campaign has been initiated for the victims of this flood, and it has attained nearly half of its $8,500 goal.
If this spur-of-the-moment, one-off fundraising effort could send that campaign over the top, it would be sensational.
These Comox residents are in no way responsible for their situation.
As was mentioned in a previous editorial, only one of the affected residents carried tenant insurance. Such insurance can cost $35 a month, or more. That’s not a lot of money, for some. For others, it would remove bread from the table. Most of those living in apartments like The Mariner fall into the latter category.
We, as a community, have the opportunity to “pay it forward” to a few of our fellow citizens with this event.
So circle the calendar, and come out to the Native Sons Hall Feb. 7. You will be helping to enrich the lives of a couple of dozen fellow community members who are in need.
More details are on the way, and a Helping Hands Benefit Concert Facebook page has been set up, to keep people updated.
Help out if you can.
Terry Farrell is the editor of the Comox Valley Record