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Lake Cowichan community members discuss affordable housing priorities at a meeting on Feb. 21.

Gaining traction on elder care

Lake Cowichan citizens work together to bring elder care close to home.

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Last week, about 40 people crowded into a Riverside Inn meeting room to have a say on affordable housing in Lake Cowichan. The Cowichan Housing Association and Social Planning Cowichan hosted the event to get input towards an Affordable Housing Action Plan for the Cowichan Valley. The action plan is a big deal – it prioritizes how money will be spent to address housing supply across the region.

Based on your vote in the referendum on housing last fall, the Cowichan Valley Regional District decided to provide $765,000 annually toward affordable housing initiatives. That money is intended to help organizations in our community access some of the nearly $7 billion in investments promised for affordable housing in British Columbia over the coming decade.

At the meeting, some community members seemed eager to get to the point, interrupting a presentation from Cowichan Housing Association’s Terri Mattin on housing trends across the valley. One man asked, somewhat aggressively, what any of the information has to do with him. Another chimed in to suggest that he, a homeowner, is being treated as a second-class citizen, being asked to pony up through property taxes to the benefit of others.

The mood shifted after Bob Day of the recently formed Cowichan Lake Elder Care Society got up to speak. He explained that he and a few others had banded together in service of an idea — that people in Lake Cowichan can stay in the community until the end of their lives, with a facility that supports different levels of care needs. Currently, Lake Cowichan has some affordable apartments for seniors but no supported housing or long-term care.

Bob Day leads a brainstorming exercise on affordable housing in Lake Cowichan on Feb. 21.

His society seems to be making traction. Day announced that it has reached a deal with the Town of Lake Cowichan to secure a piece of land for the facility, located on South Shore Road next to the library. This could help the society secure money from the province for construction.

The response in the room was immediate: this was no longer about paying higher taxes to help others elsewhere. This was about a good thing maybe happening for the people of Lake Cowichan, driven by the people of Lake Cowichan. Day explained that the resources of the Cowichan Housing Association will be critical to moving the project ahead, since that association has expertise and connections that the society does not.

“What’s in it for me?” can be a useful question but it doesn’t always have a satisfying answer. For the community of Lake Cowichan, the future of elder care remains uncertain. Will an elder care facility ultimately be built? Who will get access to that, and who will be left out?  These are important questions, but it’s hard to argue that working together for the collective benefit isn’t worthwhile in any case. Living in a community often requires working together, with the understanding that individual benefits will likely be unequal and uncertain. As the shift in tone at the meeting seemed to suggest: Working together can be a benefit in and of itself.

 Let’s gather

  • Feb. 28:  🚰 Join the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society and Cowichan Community Land Trust for a community conversation to develop an action plan to clean up Somenos and Quamichan lakes. Both lakes face significant pollution challenges, particularly an overabundance of phosphorus that can lead to toxic algae blooms.

  • March 1: 🎶 Catch folk duo Ocie Elliott live in The Chapel at Providence Farm. The band, based in Victoria, is celebrating the release of a new album.

  • March 4: ☕ Join North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring for a coffee and a chat at Sawmill Taphouse and Grill in Chemainus.

  • March 5: 🌲 Celebrate North Cowichan’s community forests at The Secrets of the Six Mountains, a public assembly hosted by the community group Where Do We Stand, featuring a long list of forest experts.

News of the week

  • Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour (Squtxulenuhw) praised B.C.’s new revenue sharing agreement in an interview with My Cowichan Valley Now. The deal will see an additional seven per cent of provincial gaming revenues go to First Nations. Each will receive between $250,000 and $2 million annually.

  • A group that seeks to launch a B.C.-wide cannabis co-op will be in Duncan on March 1 to hear from interested community members, the Cowichan Valley Citizen reports.

  • BC Housing is keen to hear a plan for housing homeless people in the Cowichan Valley, the Cowichan Valley Citizen reports. The municipality of North Cowichan, the City of Duncan and Cowichan Tribes are exploring options for temporary, low-barrier housing to help people get off the streets and out of the homeless camps that have popped up in several locations near the urban core.

Save the date

Youth, parents and others involved in the child welfare system identified issues that need deeper coverage at our project kick-off in June 2018.

Our community conversation on how journalists can improve coverage of the child welfare system, part of Cowichan’s International Women’s Day festival, is just over a week away!

Join us in bringing together journalists and people with lived experience to talk about how media coverage can better reflect the child welfare community.

Child apprehensions in Cowichan have received significant media attention in local and national outlets recently, but I’ve heard from some of you that these stories don’t reflect the complexity of the issues and the good work of many trying to address them. This is an opportunity to change that.

Plus, you’ll get a chance to hear from The Discourse’s dedicated child welfare reporter, Brielle Morgan, on her latest project, Spotlight: Child Welfare – a one-of-a-kind journalism collaborative driven by and for the child welfare community. Make sure you RSVP below!

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