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Campbell River to get 'village' of pre-fabricated units for homeless

Mayor Kermit Dahl said Friday that he hopes the pre-fabricated units will be up and running by May 1.

Forty temporary supportive housing units for those without homes will open in Campbell River as early as this spring through a partnership between the province and the city, which is supplying the land.

Mayor Kermit Dahl said Friday that he hopes the pre-fabricated units will be up and running by May 1, adding there’s an urgent need to help those experiencing homelessness and address encampments and “associated challenges” in the community.

The city has dealt with encampments at Nunns Creek Park and in the downtown area.

The collection of units, which will give up to 40 people a place to sleep and store belongings, will be called HEARTH Village and be located at 1299 Homewood Rd.

It will include a shared amenity space and washrooms, and a non-profit social agency will be hired to run the village.

As in other sheltered housing projects in the province, it will have staff on duty around the clock daily, a feature welcomed by Dahl.

Support services such as meals, skills training and referrals to health and other community services will be available.

Last year, a point-in-time count found 197 people in the city experiencing homelessness, up from 116 in 2021.

Dahl said a year ago, he visited The Village in Duncan, where previously unhoused people live in tiny individual units, and was sold on the concept.

Victoria had its own Tiny Town village of 30 shipping-container homes in the Royal Athletic Park parking lot, which closed last fall after operating for two years.

Campbell River made news last fall after it rejected two non-profit organizations’ ­property-tax exemption requests for 2024, on the grounds that they were ­contributing to disorder downtown by assisting unhoused residents.

The Campbell River Art Gallery had raised the ire of some by allowing people to shelter under its awnings at night and holding art studio session for members of the street population, while the Vancouver Island Mental Health ­Society, which runs a supervised ­injection site downtown, was accused by a town councillor of having “significant negative effects on our downtown community.”

At the time, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon urged the town’s council to work with partners to find solutions.

B.C. Housing is covering the capital costs and ongoing funding for the HEARTH Village, which is currently being determined. As well as land, the city will pay for the civil works and site-preparation costs.

The new project is part of the province’s HEARTH program — homelessness encampment action response temporary housing program.

The government will continue to work with Campbell River and other communities to develop more housing options so more people can move indoors, Kahlon said.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com