With frigid and stormy weather ahead, emergency shelters are opening, but the Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association is concerned about a warming shelter in the community centre.
It’s in a facility where 350 young athletes use the ice.
Some parents are also worried about what they’ve seen since an emergency warming centre for the vulnerable opened in the same building.
“Last year, it was only a block away, and we didn’t notice much of an impact. This year, it’s right in the same building as our daughter figure skates, and we start skating at 6:30 in the morning sometimes, and it’s right when they’re opening the doors,” says Marc Brackett, a Cowichan Valley resident.
The Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association says in a letter to the Cowichan Valley Regional District that it has children who can no longer walk into the arena unattended, and older teenagers are hesitant to walk to their vehicles alone at night.
It also says the homeless population “has brought with it substantial drug use, overdoses, crime, drug paraphernalia, human excrement, loitering, and individuals suffering with mania, psychosis, and anger which often lash out.”
“It’s not the best space for it. There’s been some other impacts like having to reschedule and move some of the stuff that was already scheduled in that space as well and just having to really keep an eye on the comings and goings in the waiting rooms and warm rooms,” said Elizabeth Brackett, a parent.
A CVRD staff report says this was the only location it could find for an emergency warming centre this year.
It says so far, it’s received 50 complaints that have included open drug use, public urination, fires, and theft.
It says a challenge is letting the homeless and the community know when the warming centre is actually activated because those hoping to use the centre have been showing up and hanging around even when it’s not open.
However, some remain supportive of the location in the Heritage Hall at the Cowichan Community Centre.
“I’ve got no issues with it personally. If it was an issue of public safety, these things go through committees. It’s not a snap decision thing. If issues arise, then issues are dealt with,” said Josh Nelson, another parent.
The Cowichan Valley Capitals raised concerns in a letter to the CVRD Board in December about the impacts of the warming centre on its hockey operations.
The warming centre was first activated on Dec. 12 and two more times in December. It was activated with the cold weather again this weekend. The Regional District says it wants to find a new permanent location for next fall.
The letter is in the Cowichan Valley Regional District board meeting agenda for this Wednesday.