The City of Parksville will provide funding up to $3,000 and a letter of support to a group trying to end veteran homelessness in the Oceanside and Comox Valley regions.
Sgt. Bill Webb (retired) made the request on behalf of six legions — the group will apply to the Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to fund a study to determine needs for local homeless veterans.
“We have been working the streets in Qualicum, Parksville and the entire Comox Valley to advocate our community councils and our community partners to start building bridges to get our veterans off the streets and keep those that are at high risk from ending up on the street,” said Webb.
There are 19 homeless veterans in the Oceanside and Comox Valley regions — about 17 per cent are women, he said. Parksville joined the Town of Qualicum Beach, the Village of Cumberland and Comox Valley Regional District in supporting the Operation: Leave the Streets Behind initiative. The program was developed by the Royal Canadian Legion to identify and assist homeless veterans and those at risk of becoming homeless.
Coun. Mark Chandler asked if trailers could be set up for temporary veteran housing. He pointed to the Homes for Heroes Foundation projects in Calgary and Edmonton, which partnered with Atco to build modular housing for veterans.
“It takes a long time. I can imagine those projects took at least two, three years to get up and running. I’m just thinking of something in the meantime, just to try and alleviate the stress of the system,” he said.
Homes for Heroes is looking to expand to Vancouver Island, Webb said. “They’ve approached Victoria and had zero interest. We’ve been in negotiations with them and said the north and central island would be more appropriate.”
Webb said he is not requesting a donation of land at this stage, but the Oceanside area would be preferable because of its proximity to counselling and other veteran services in Nanaimo. The Village of Cumberland has 10 acres set aside for similar housing initiatives and could be an option in the future, he added.
London, Ontario recently became the first Canadian community to achieve zero veteran homelessness, Webb said, adding he hoped Oceanside and the Comox Valley could follow its example.