A new Campbell River program is combining community cleanup with peer support for people using substances and experiencing homelessness.

Since June, ‘Get the Point’ volunteers have been cleaning up garbage and sharps around town three times a week.

They also provide items like sunscreen, hats, water and harm-reduction supplies to people in need who live outside.

Heather Gordon Murphy of the Downtown BIA meets with volunteers from the ‘Get the Point’ downtown clean-up team (Photo supplied by: City of Campbell River)

The volunteers, also referred to as “peers” are experiencing homelessness themselves, or have in the past.

“The program really helps because having people out there who were homeless or using and are now clean really gets others feeling like they can do it too,” says peer leader Ray Goodwin.

“I think the community doesn’t understand, and this can help people see that homeless people and people who use want change too. Everyone I talk to likes this program. It’s a lot easier to talk to someone if they aren’t just book learned. If you know someone’s been there, they get it, you know?”

Cleanups take place in downtown, Campbellton, Willow Point, the Dogwood and Cedar area, Quinsam Heights, in park spaces like Nunns Creek and along the waterfront.

The program is run by Kwakuitl District Council Health and was developed with help from the city, the Campbell River RCMP and the Downtown Business Association.

“It was great to meet the enthusiastic and excited group of people heading out to help clean up downtown Campbell River,” says Downtown BIA chair Heather Gordon Murphy. “We look forward to seeing the results.”

Through the program, volunteers receive training and an honorarium.

Several municipalities across the province have run similar programs with funding from a provincial grant as part of the response to the overdose crisis.

‘Get the Point’ funding came from the city, in partnership with Island Health and the Campbell River Community Action Team.

The program will run into the fall as a pilot project before being evaluated to see if there is potential for it to continue in the future.