‘The idea is to give back’: Volunteers painting businesses to help a troubled part of Duncan

WatchVolunteers are painting businesses along Whistler street in Duncan where many homeless, drug addicted and vandals pass by. Kendall Hanson has more.

A volunteer group in the Cowichan Valley picked up their paintbrushes and helped transform part of their community this Thanksgiving weekend.

On Saturday, a half-dozen volunteers were prepping and painting businesses along Whistler Street in Duncan, a street that has seen its fair share of drug addicts and vandals over the years.

“The idea is to give back. It’s not the cure we know that but it’s something to give the business owner who is the taxpayer that makes this community work some appreciation,” said Doug Mackenzie, one of the volunteers.

The volunteers are part of a group known as the Cowichan Clean Up crew, which help clean streets each morning in Duncan and neighbouring North Cowichan.

Now they’ve turned to paint.

Graham Blackstock, owner of The Duncan Butcher Shop, said he was grateful his business was among the buildings recently painted by volunteers.

“It’s awesome. I’ve been in a pandemic two and a half years here. Not the pandemic that we’re in now,” Blackstock said. “Two and a half years that’s what I’ve been in so I’ve got two pandemics as far as the homelessness, the drug addiction the alcoholism that’s going on around here.”

Volunteers plan to continue painting more businesses for several blocks. They have also raised $5,000 – an amount Duncan city council said it would match this past week – to put up a fence to make walking through the area more difficult.

“I think Duncan will be a leader and be an example of what a small community can do to tackle the homelessness and addiction and all those things,” said Mackenzie.

The City of Duncan has a long-term vision for the area, having recently hired Communitecture, an Oregon-based architecture consultant, to re-imagine what Whistler Street could be.

Communitecture’s plans were presented to council last month. Though they are still long way away from being implemented as costs and funding still have to be determined, Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples said she was pleased with what she saw.

“There were walkways cycle paths, there were planters, trees all sorts of things implemented to make it a space that people really are compelled to use and to access,” said Staples.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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