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May 14, 2020

Helping Ladysmith's homeless access services, self-isolate during COVID-19

Those experiencing homelessness in the Cowichan Valley will soon have additional sheltering spaces and supports during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 The Town of Ladysmith, along with other local municipalities, has been working with the COVID-19 Vulnerable Population Cowichan Task Force and the Province of BC to find ways to reduce the potential transmission of the virus among people living on the streets.

 “This is a critical time in our COVID-19 response. The direction from the Province to local governments is to make connections with our local homeless population to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Mayor Aaron Stone.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, BC Housing is working with communities and local health authorities across the province to identify temporary sheltering spaces - such as emergency response centres and designated hotels - to provide safe places for people experiencing homelessness. In some communities where not enough indoor spaces are yet available, organized outdoor living is being arranged.

In the Cowichan Valley, small-scale tenting sites with toilets and handwashing stations are being set-up. These sites will include food, outreach, hygiene and security services. The groups staying at these sites will be no more than a dozen people who can self-isolate together.

Locally, a vacant lot owned by the Town on Buller Street has been selected as a small-scale tenting site.

 “The temporary outdoor shelter site, across from the existing winter shelter on Buller Street, will be serving individuals familiar to Ladysmith Resources Centre Association (LRCA) staff and offer the same services, but in an outdoor location while providing for social distancing and monitoring,” said Mayor Stone.

Temporary small-scale tenting will be provided at the Buller Street site during the ongoing pandemic. The LRCA, a non-profit operator experienced in working with vulnerable populations, will oversee the day-to-day management of the site.

LRCA staff will spearhead on-the-ground services, with support from the Cowichan Housing Association, Island Health, Nanaimo and Area Services for Families, and other public health organizations.

Many local homeless individuals access outreach programs, such as the shelter, food bank and meal program. Only those known to the LRCA will be invited to self-isolate on the Buller Street site. 

In addition to daily support from LRCA shelter staff, specialized health teams will visit Ladysmith regularly to engage with individuals, assessing their mental and physical health, as well as checking for COVID-19 symptoms.

Dedicated security has been hired to be on-site daily in Ladysmith between 10 pm and 6 am.  Additionally, a rotating security team will patrol between all Cowichan sites during daytime hours.

Garbage collection, cleaning and sanitation will also occur regularly at the site.

While this is an unprecedented use of public space, this initiative will form part of our collective efforts to try to prevent the spread of the virus. We greatly appreciate your understanding during these difficult times. 

Work to secure hotel and motel rooms in the region is also ongoing.

Emergency response sites are an interim solution to reduce homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic until more permanent housing solutions can be made available. BC Housing recognizes there is an urgent need and they are committed to working with municipalities, local health authorities, and non-profit partners to develop permanent supportive housing across the region.

For more information, please also see our list of Frequently Asked Questions. 

Quotes: 

Doug Routley, MLA, Nanaimo-North Cowichan - “The response to this pandemic has been broad and has included everyone doing their part to reduce infections. From progressive leadership of council and extraordinary capacities of LRCA, the whole community is safer.”

Christy Wood, Executive Director, LRCA - “During the best of times, those precariously housed or without shelter face many challenges just surviving every day. With the current pandemic, the situation has become even more unbearable for these individuals. People are worried about getting sick and about how they will meet the most basic needs many of us take for granted. The Ladysmith Resources Centre Association is ready to work with the Town of Ladysmith, the Cowichan Housing Association and the COVID-19 Vulnerable Persons Task Force to support those most disadvantaged in the current pandemic to not only meet basic needs of our community members but to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

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