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Students advocate for mobile charging station for Campbell River homeless

Technology connects us to each other like never before, so it’s important we all have access to the tools needed to keep this momentum going.

So says a group of students in Campbell River, who are currently advocating for a mobile charging station for the city’s homeless population.

Kas Naicker is enrolled in the Human Services program at North Island College, and a recent project prompted her to team up with classmates Trevor Cardinell and Kristi Inman. 

In a letter presented to council on Monday (Feb. 22nd), Naicker says the project has pushed her group to address “the lack of resources for the homeless community in Campbell River.”

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“There are several homeless camps throughout the city, but we have seen a trend of homeless people congregating in areas with access to electricity like the library in the downtown core,” Naicker wrote. “The vast majority of them have cellphones but nowhere to charge them.”

According to Naicker, this really “struck a chord.”

She says the more her group thought about it, the more it made sense: “Our phones are the basis for connecting us to all of our resources and loved ones, why would it be different for someone without a permanent shelter over their head?”

With that in mind, Naicker, Cardinell and Inman are now pushing for a mobile charging station that has Wi-Fi for the city’s homeless.

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“We have contacted community outreach groups as well as businesses to launch this initiative, possibly at the camps or even in the downtown core with the permission of the City and the local Indigenous community,” Naicker said.

“We would like to provide a service that does not interfere with bylaws and the needs of the city and business owners but accommodates and gives access to the homeless population.”

City manager Deborah Sargent told Vista Radio that Monday’s council meeting also included a delegation from the Hema’elas Community Kitchen & Kwesa Place.

It’s a space located inside the downtown Harbour Inn for community groups to provide meals for people in need. It’s open for dinner 7-days a week, from 5:00 pm till 6:30 pm.

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“One of the questions that council asked that group … can people charge their cellphones in these new centres that have been established?”

Sargent says the answer was “Yes, they can.”

However, according to Naicker, this population is still struggling and there is a gap in services needed. And, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, that gap has only been worsened.

While she says access to mobile technology will not solve homelessness, Naicker wrote that it could help with enabling access to important services like health care and employment, and personal or family networks.

“Moreover, mobile connectivity helps those seeking housing, meals, public transit, and legal information and advice. It also helps improve social support that can lead to improvements in physical and mental health,” Naicker added.

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