City of Courtenay officials don’t have to look very far to see how homelessness is increasing in the mid-Island community.
Tents are regularly set up on a patch of grass in the city hall parking lot, and right across the street, a warming centre attracts many unhoused people every day.
“We’re still fighting the fight, and this is our number one concern,” Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells told CHEK News Monday.
Earlier this year, a survey taken over 24 hours found 272 people experiencing homelessness in the Comox Valley. That’s more than double the 132 people in 2020.
Fifty-nine per cent were men, 35 per cent were women, and four per cent identified as another gender.
Courtenay finds itself in the middle of the Comox Valley’s crisis of the unhoused because it is where the services are located.
Mayor Bob Wells says he’s disappointed in the number increase but not surprised.
“You throw in the pandemic, you throw in toxic drugs, you know, the opioid epidemic and those spiralling costs of rentals, and this is the outcome,” Wells added.
There are many reasons why people end up on the streets. The study by the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness found that for 56 per cent of them, it’s not enough income, followed by a substance abuse issue for 31 per cent and mental health for 27 per cent.
Seventeen per cent blamed a conflict with their spouse or partner.
The City says the province is a willing partner and has built or purchased numerous affordable housing facilities to house people, including a Super 8 Motel.
But Wells says even more needs to be done.
“You know we’re still working with the province, we’re in discussions with them pretty much every day,” he said. “We really need to get the federal government on our side. Their supply of non-market housing really hasn’t kept up with the demand by any stretch of the imagination.”
He says the city’s main priority now as winter weather approaches is to find space for temporary shelters.
Roughly 3,500 overnight visits were recorded over 120 days at a Courtenay shelter last winter.
More statistics and information from the survey can be found here.