UPDATE, June 23 2021: At the public hearing on June 22, council heard input from three people in favour of the zoning amendment to allow an expansion of the Lake Cowichan Community Services building and one against. The town also received 26 written comments against the proposal and eight in favour. At the council meeting that followed, Coun. Tim McGonigle proposed referring the bylaw back to staff for more information, and his motion passed with three in favour. A final decision is therefore delayed to a future council meeting.
Lake Cowichan Community Services Society is urging community support for a project to expand its building, located on Point Ideal Drive, near Saywell Park. The Town of Lake Cowichan will host a virtual public hearing at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 22 to consider a bylaw amendment to allow the construction.
The society is seeing more need in the local community, exacerbated by the pandemic, says Melaina Patenaude, the society’s executive director. The largest gaps are in mental health supports and housing, she says.
“We’re being slammed. And we need help.”
A new space will allow the society to hire someone to do work that is currently being done off the side of the desks of existing staff, Patenaude says.
The plan is to add a 500-square-foot addition to the building, with a separate entrance. The society has access to $150,000 in funding for the construction from the United Way. The space would be somewhere to do laundry and have a shower for those who need it. A staff person would be available to supervise and offer support.
Patenaude says, “It’s helping fill a gap that’s currently pretty stark in our community. So, just a safe place for people to come to access services safely with dignity. And with somebody who’s trained to help them link up with the services that they need and just walk alongside them as they help them achieve their goals in life.”
The clients who would access this service are neighbours and friends, and they are already coming to Community Services, Patenaude says. Most are precariously housed, and need support to avoid becoming homeless.
The society currently serves a very diverse group of people who come in with very different needs. The society offers programs for children and families, counselling, employment support, a food bank and more.
Part of the problem now, Patenaude says, is that everyone is coming through the same door. It creates congestion and makes it hard to protect the privacy and safety of everyone seeking help.
With the new addition, the society will deliver similar services to what it already offers, but in a better way, Patenaude says.
And the addition will be an asset to the community, no matter what the future need might be, she says.
“This building’s been recreated so many times over the last 30-some years. We’ve been a daycare, we’ve been a women’s transition house, we’ve had a thrift store upstairs — we’ve created ourselves so many times. So I see it as an asset to Community Services and an asset to the community.”
Community members who wish to give their feedback on the proposal can email the town at firstname.lastname@example.org before 2:30 p.m. on June 22, or watch the public hearing on YouTube at 6 p.m. and call 250-749-6681 when prompted to do so.