Container homes the answer to homelessness, says Comox Valley group

Container homes the answer to homelessness, says Comox Valley group
File Photo
With four people living in container homes and a fifth one being built, Dawn to Dawn Action on Homelessness seeks support from BC Housing.

Four people at Maple Pool Campground in Courtenay are now calling a 20-foot metal shipping container home.

“What a difference. They’re well insulated, they’re bombproof,” said Craig, who didn’t want to give his last name.

He used to live in an old trailer at Maple Pool which, over the years, has become home to over 50 people living on the fringe of homelessness.

“It has changed my life,” he added. “I sleep better, I’m toasty warm all the time, I don’t have to use tons of electricity and it’s safer.”

The container homes began as a local Rotary Club project and now Dawn to Dawn Action on Homelessness is helping find a home for people either from the streets or other non-suitable housing.

Residents pay $350 a month to Maple Pool Campground, which is covered by the provincial government’s shelter allowance.

A fifth home is now being built.

Each shipping container has basic amenities, including a washroom and shower, but seemingly offers much more than that.

“Their things are safe and they’re safe,” said Dawn to Dawn’s Charlene Davis. “There’s a peephole in the door when they answer it so they’re able to see who’s there. They feel like they finally have someplace to stay warm, dry, clean and safe.”

Dawn to Dawn is so happy with the outcomes so far it would like to see container homes on all 125 sites at Maple Pool, along with services such as addiction counselling available onsite.

The program called We Can Shelter Project is funded entirely by donations.

Each home costs around $22,000 to build.

The group wants to see BC Housing get involved in a purchase of the Maple Pool campground to build a designated container home community.

“For me, the number one priority is to get BC Housing’s attention and for it to recognize that right here is a solution. The cost to create that solution is a drop in the bucket, compared to building a new building or buying an old motel,” said Dawn to Dawn Outreach Worker Grant Shilling.

BC Housing, however, hasn’t warmed up to the idea due to the site’s location.

“BC Housing is always appreciative when community members bring forward innovative housing proposals, however, we do not feel that this is an appropriate site for permanent housing as it is located within a floodplain,” read a statement from BC Housing on Friday.

“We continue to work with and support the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness and the local non-profit housing operators towards creating permanent housing solutions in the Comox Valley. We have asked our partners in the Comox Valley region to submit housing proposals to us prior to January 15, 2021, when our Community Housing Fund Request for Proposals call closes. We anticipate several proposals from the region.”

BC Housing recently opened 46 new supportive homes on 8th Street in Courtenay with land donated by the City of Courtenay.

BC Housing also opened 35 new affordable rental homes for people at risk of homelessness last year in Courtenay as well.

Shilling says he is undeterred and believes this is the most sensible, cost-effective solution.

“I mean trailers are not a long-term solution,” he said. “The insulation is poor, they’re not soundproof, plumbing breaks down, hydro costs are ridiculous. Container homes are really a way of being economically efficient, health efficient, and provides people with a sense of home.”

The latest count in the Comox Valley in 2020 recorded 135 people experiencing homelessness.

Shilling says container homes at Maple Pool would come close to solving the crisis in the Comox Valley.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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