The City of Campbell River is turning a former BMX track into a temporary campsite for people experiencing homelessness.
Work will soon begin to prepare the site on Homewood Road that will follow provincial public health orders and provide up to 25 appropriately-distanced camping sites.
“Around the world, people are trying their best to respond to the extremely challenging situation caused by this virus,” says Mayor Andy Adams. “The province has asked communities across British Columbia to come up with initiatives that best address the local needs of people experiencing homelessness. The entire community benefits when we take action to protect our most vulnerable with this temporary safer camp location during the pandemic.”
The initiative is being developed with local social service organizations and BC Housing.
Plans are in the works to arrange for a local organization to manage and operate the site while providing as many support services as possible, which could include regular meals, social supports, health services, and visits from doctors and nurse practitioners.
The city says it will provide more information to nearby businesses and residents next week, including who to contact with any questions or concerns.
“With limited local capacity to manage multiple emergency housing responses, community service organizations are pulling together to support people in a low-barrier, central location, where camping will be permitted and monitored to minimize the risk posed by this virus,” says city manager Deborah Sargent. “People are already camping in the woods and along trails in this area. Setting up a site that provides appropriate physical distancing will better protect the health of these vulnerable people and reduce the demand on our medical system.”
Sargent adds that it “could also help contain the potential spread of the virus by reducing the need to travel throughout the community each day seeking basic services.”
Island Health and BC Housing have arranged for hotel stays if homeless people require time in isolation due to potential exposure to COVID-19.
The city says housing outreach workers are working to arrange suitable long-term accommodation for as many people as possible.
In partnership with the city, BC Housing is currently leading two projects that will help provide long-term affordable housing solutions in Campbell River, which includes an affordable housing project for women and children fleeing violence and supportive housing with 24-hour support services.