The south end parking lot of Fuller Lake Arena is going to be set up as a homeless tenting site. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Fuller Lake Arena site a test case

Temporary homeless facility will need to operate efficiently without incident

It’s going to be very interesting to see if everything goes according to plan at the Fuller Lake Arena south end parking lot temporary homeless tenting site.

There’s a lot at stake here for the COVID-19 Vulnerable Populations Cowichan Task Force. The organization alerted residents in the vicinity last Thursday about using the site as a safe place for people living on the streets to practice physical distancing and reducing the risk of spreading the virus.

The Task Force submitted this plan to BC Housing some time ago, although knowledge to the public just became apparent in the last week and a half, about its strategy and how it would not accommodate more than 12 people. The original plan for up to seven other sites across the Cowichan Valley has been downscaled. Ladysmith on Buller Street is operating, but residents have yet to be notified about pending Duncan and Cowichan Tribes land locations.

The exact time period the sites will be in operation isn’t clear. But with measures from COVID-19 being relaxed in a phased provincial plan, there’s no reason to think these tenting facilities will still be around beyond June.

It almost seems unnecessary at this point to be going to all this trouble (and cost) for a little more than a month and if COVID-19 was such a concern among this population, these sites would have been up and running way before now. It’s almost too late now to make any difference in that respect.

The Task Force addressed the anticipated concerns of residents in its letter, outlining everything that’s being done from security and health checks to food, hygiene, garbage collection, cleaning and sanitation.

Occupants are free to come and go during the day so people in the area certainly don’t want them wandering around their neighbourhoods where theft has already been a problem.

After the site’s tenure is up and the tents come down, the big question remains. What next?

The homeless are supposed to be set up in housing. But there still needs to be a long-term plan to get homeless people, many with serious drug addictions and mental health issues, into treatment.

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