40 unit ‘village’ for homeless will help ‘reduce challenges’ in Campbell River: mayor

40 unit 'village' for homeless will help 'reduce challenges' in Campbell River: mayor
Photo: BC Housing
The site of HEARTH Village in Campbell River is pinpointed on this map.

More than three dozen temporary supportive housing units coming to Campbell River look to “reduce some of the challenges our community is experiencing,” says the city’s mayor.

A partnership between the Province of B.C. through BC Housing and the City of Campbell River is bringing HEARTH Village, with 40 individual sleeping units, to fruition for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The village will be located at 1299 Homewood Rd.

Mayor Kermit Dahl said he was “happy” to announce the project, adding during a Feb. 15 council meeting that it’s “a significant investment that supports council’s commitment to community health and safety.”

A 2023 Point-in-Time homeless count identified 197 people as experiencing homelessness in Campbell River — a 66 per cent increase from the previous count two years prior. Fifty-seven per cent of respondents said they were unsheltered.

“This project (HEARTH) is a major part of our plan to address and prevent homelessness and encampments in the community,” said BC Housing.

The site on Homewood Road is ideal because overnight sheltering is already permitted there, according to Dahl. But that’s expected to change.

“While construction of HEARTH Village will not displace all those currently residing at the site, the city has decided that this location will no longer be appropriate for overnight temporary shelter or camping, and will be bringing forward an amendment bylaw to ban the use,” he said Friday.

“The city is working with community partners and looking into potential options as we move forward.”

Support services, daily meals

HEARTH, a program brought forward by BC Housing, stands for Homelessness Encampment Action Response Temporary Housing.

The village will offer support services, washrooms and a shared amenity space, says the province. It adds that an experienced non-profit organization will operate HEARTH, with staff on-site 24/7, providing daily meals, access to skills training and health and community support referrals.

Each unit will be private and have a door that locks.

In Victoria, a similar facility operated next to Royal Athletic Park for about two years before closing last fall.

North Island MLA Michele Babchuck says the Campbell River village was first proposed at the Union of BC Municipalities conference last September, “and I’m proud of how quickly we’ve been able to move from concept to construction.”

The province says the city got started with the project’s concept, which was supported by a “Table of Partners,” including the Downtown Campbell River Business Improvement Association (BIA) and service providers.

Homeless people frequent the downtown area, and in October 2023, CHEK News reported the city removed the Campbell River Art Gallery’s tax exemption.

The city labelled the gallery a “bad neighbour” because the unhoused often gather on the gallery’s lawn, with Coun. Ron Kerr noting this was having “an extremely detrimental effect” on local businesses and visitors.

HEARTH Village should open by mid-2024.

The cost of the village is still “being determined,” says the province. The city is providing the land, as well as funding the civil works and site preparation costs, for the project that’s part of a $19-billion housing investment by the B.C. government.

Upcoming open house

A community-wide, in-person open house is happening on March 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Campbell River Community Centre (401 11th Ave.) to allow the public to share feedback about the village. RSVP here.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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