Parksville has joined Qualicum Beach, Cumberland and the Comox Valley Regional District in supporting the Operation: Leave the Streets Behind initiative.
Retired Sgt. Bill Webb went before Parksville city council on Monday (March 1) on behalf of six Royal Canadian Legion Branches to request for council’s support with the group’s application for funding through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and Veterans Well Being Fund to determine needs for local homeless veterans.
After Webb’s presentation, Parksville council voted in favour to send a letter of support and to match funding from the council contingency up to $3,000.
“We have been working the streets in Qualicum, Parksville and the entire Comox Valley to advocate with our community councils and our community partners to start building bridges to get our veterans off the street and keep those that are at high-risk from ending up on the street,” said Webb. “We believe that our efforts fall in line with the community plan for housing for marginalized people in our communities, not just veterans.”
According to Veterans Affairs, Justice Statistics, there should only be 14 veterans experiencing homelessness on Vancouver Island, said Webb.
However, between the Comox Valley and Parksville Qualicum Beach region alone, 19 homeless veterans have been identified since January 2020, ranging from “absolute homelessness” to at-risk and “near homelessness.”
When asked by Coun. Al Greir what percentage were women, Webb said he believed 17 per cent.
“I’m sure they’re more vulnerable than the men,” said Greir.
During his presentation,Webb said that London, Ont., was the first Canadian community to achieve a functional zero veterans homelessness level within the past month, and they were able to achieve this by doing what his group of six legions are doing right now, working with community partners and local councils.
Webb hopes the area between the Comox Valley and Parksville Qualicum Beach will be the second Canadian community to reach a net zero veterans homelessness level.
“Typically when we say the word ‘veteran,’ most people think of World War Two or Korean War veterans… The average age of a veteran today across the country is 46 years old. And 50 per cent of those veterans have kids that are facing near homelessness or homelessness. So the demographics are changing. The needs for housing for veterans has changed drastically over the past 10 years. We need to have the resources in place first, then we need to build the housing.”