Courtenay councillor wants Island Health to help address public defecation

Courtenay councillor wants Island Health to help address public defecation

Downtown Courtenay is seeing an increase in public defecation and two unhoused men told CHEK News Thursday they have seen it all.

“They’re just going in the shrubberies and on the street, anywhere,” said Alex Henry.

“Yeah, I’ve seen it. I pick garbage up, I’m up at 5 o’clock in the morning so of course I have,” added Kerry Corrigall.

The mayor and council are also well aware of the growing issue.

“It’s been an issue for quite some time and one of the things we did when I became mayor was work on opening up the Urbaloo, which opened around [December 2021] and again it was to provide people a place to go to the washroom when they’re downtown,” said Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells.

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The public Urbaloo at England Ave and 6th Street is open dawn to dusk, but there was a pilot project to keep it open 24 hours.

Unfortunately, vandalism and other problems ended it without success, so now it and other public washrooms in Courtenay are closed overnight, resulting in public defecation.

“You know, at the end of the day they are absolutely humiliated,” said Dayna Forsgren, Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness coordinator. “They feel a lack of dignity in their experiences, many individuals are senior citizens and adults with disabilities.”

It’s why city councillor Wendy Morin tabled a notice of motion Wednesday stating that, as a public health issue, Island Health should be asked to help.

The motion can be found here under number 8.

“What we heard from other places is that what works best is having an accessible public bathroom that has monitoring, or people actually attached to it to connect and make sure that folks using the washroom are safe and secure,” Morin told CHEK News.

“There are many communities across our province with very similar challenges and we really just want to have Island Health, who has that expertise, to be able to step up to the plate,” added Wells.

Other cities going through the same thing include Victoria which was asking for provincial help back in December.

Island Health tells CHEK News it is aware of the notice of motion and that the North Island Medical Health Officer has connected directly with Coun. Morin.

It adds: “Island Health provides access to washrooms during operating hours for people accessing Island Health services. It is not within the mandate of health authorities to fund, provide or staff public washroom facilities. We look forward to continued conversations with all the appropriate partners if/when this motion is endorsed by Council and Island Health receives formal correspondence.”

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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