North Cowichan Mayor Rob Douglas said he was sorry to hear how many people in an apartment building in the York Street/Lewis Street area are afraid to leave their homes.
Douglas told council at its meeting on May 17 that he and a number of senior staff were invited to meet with the residents, mostly seniors, of the apartment building that is located close to where the Overdose Prevention Site and the Warmland shelter are located in North Cowichan’s south end. The area is currently facing challenges related to homelessness, mental heath, addictions and street disorder.
Douglas said the tenants told him that they feel unsafe in their own neighbourhood.
“We are seeing an increase in property trespass and street disorder in the area immediately surrounding this apartment building,” he said.
“Staff and I committed to bringing the RCMP back to meet with these folks and hear their concerns directly.”
Douglas said that while listening to the residents describe the issues they are grappling with every day, he recognized that they underscored the need for council to consider all options within the municipality’s jurisdiction to tackle these problems.
He said council also needs to increase its advocacy for senior levels of government to improve public safety and invest in the housing, mental health and addiction supports that are needed in the community.
Douglas said that he and CAO Ted Swabey recently met with Dr. Shannon Waters, the medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley, and they discussed the mental health and addiction services currently available in the region.
He said they talked about where the current gaps in the health system exist for people that are struggling to deal with these issues, and how North Cowichan can work with Island Health to ensure that there are appropriate resources available for those in need; whether that’s providing more front-line workers, detox beds and/or opening up new recovery centres and health facilities.
“I look forward to working with Dr. Waters and Island Health... as we advocate to the province for greater investments in the mental health and addictions supports that are needed in our community,” Douglas said.