Cowichan clean up crew says social problems are on the rise in the region

WatchA group of volunteers who clean the streets of Duncan and North Cowichan each morning are speaking out.

A group of volunteers who clean the streets of Duncan and North Cowichan each morning are calling on the government for more help for the region.

For the past two-and-a-half years, the Cowichan Clean Up crew has been gathering up garbage each morning and acting as an extra set up eyes on the street to try and prevent crime.

But lately, despite all their efforts, they say the situation is getting worse.

“There’s a lot more crime around here,” said Adam Clutchey, a team member.

“Just stealing from businesses and households and it’s just frustrating watching all that.”

There was a stabbing a week ago and they say they’ve been finding more needles, vandalism and open drug use.

On North Cowichan’s Lewis Street, homeless congregate outside an emergency shelter and some pitch tents overnight.

A homeless father of two says supportive housing would help him get off the street.

“The only option I see for getting into any kind of housing is probably second stage housing program and those are kind of hard to find especially in this area,” said Johann Dalskog.

One street clean team member is also a business owner and he says he’s among those being heavily impacted by the area’s social problems.

“I spend two or three hours a day, cleaning up graffiti, just doing that kind of stuff just to make the business presentable,” said Travis Berthiaume.

Another volunteer is the president of the region’s Canadian Mental Health Association.

Cathy Schmidt says there are wrap-around services to help people get off the streets in Victoria and Nanaimo — but not here.

“And we’re really hoping that some of the proposals that we’ve put through provincially will come through to help us get what we need to be able to support those that need the support,” she said.

In a statement, the province says:

“In Duncan, BC Housing is actively working with the two councils on a range of housing options for people experiencing homelessness, including supportive housing. Over the past two years, our government has also begun the crucial task of rebuilding the long-neglected system for people with mental health and addiction challenges. We acknowledge there are still gaps in the system that we are working to fill as fast as we can so that no one slips through the cracks.”

The BC government also referenced the women’s shelter they funded more than a year ago.

The volunteers are just hoping solutions will be found soon.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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