Growing number of adults with developmental disabilities are homeless in the Cowichan Valley

Growing number of adults with developmental disabilities are homeless in the Cowichan Valley
A housing project at 260 White Street in Duncan was expected to open in summer 2023, but construction stalled.

Squeezed between the high cost of living and lack of available housing, a growing number of adults with developmental disabilities are becoming homeless in the Cowichan Valley.

Thirty-four-year old John Harry’s home is under a tarp in the bushes on the outskirts of Duncan.

“It’s hard. So that’s why I live in a tarp and blankets. I’m kind of hidden, like in a dark bush,” John said. He lost his motel room in the spring when the owner decided to renovate and evict him.

Now living in a shelter in Duncan, 28-year-old Emerson Harry has already spent several years on the street.

“I was on the streets for a while. Staying up all night, and walking around. But then I got a bit of help here from Clement Centre,” Emerson said.

As adults with developmental disabilities, John and Emerson are clients of the Clement Centre for Families.

Both men should be living at a BC Housing project located at 260 White Road in Duncan where they would have their own unit, but construction stopped six months ago leaving them both in limbo.

Dominic Rockall, CEO of Clement Centre for Families, said that both men receive the monthly Persons with Disabilities payments of just under $1,500.

The average cost of an apartment in Duncan is close to $1,100, pricing them out of the market.

“We have a growing number of adults with developmental disabilities who have been priced out of the housing market, and are homeless or are precariously housed, on the verge of homelessness,” Rockall said.

John and Emerson don’t qualify for the province’s Rental Assistance Program to help with the high cost of living.

Their outreach worker, Bob Day, said there is not enough housing for those on low incomes.

“They end up on the streets, for one way or another,” Day said. “It’s not because they want to, and I think in a country like Canada, we gotta figure this out, and prioritize this issue.”

BC’s Housing Minister, Ravi Kahlon, said the province is doing what it can.

“It’s certainly challenging to hear anyone in that type of situation, we know BC Housing prioritizes people with developmental disabilities to get into housing as quick as possible,” Kahlon said.

But until that work begins, John and Emerson remain unhoused, and are losing hope on finding a permanent home.

“I would like get a job pretty soon, and start working on saving for a place,” Emerson said.

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Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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