COVID-19 Task Force for Vulnerable Populations Develops Plan to Shelter, Support and Self-Isolate Homeless and Precariously Housed

DUNCAN, BC – On March 19th, 2020, acting on the advice of BC Housing, the City of Duncan asked Cowichan Housing Association to lead a joint task force to develop a response plan to provide housing and support during the COVID-19 pandemic for people who are homeless or precariously housed. A short-term 30-day response plan has been submitted for consideration by BC Housing and Emergency Management BC.

The COVID-19 Task Force for Vulnerable Populations met electronically for the first time on March 20th, 2020, with representation from service organizations, Island Health, local governments, First Nations, school district, health care professionals, community members, and peer representatives. The Task Force spent countless hours during the next week to develop a plan to house and support people, which includes providing opportunities for access to washroom and shower facilities, health supports, healthy food, and temporary accommodations to encourage people to shelter in place. Medium-term and longer-term plans, including a post-COVID-19 transition plan, are now being developed.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, existing emergency shelters are challenged to continue to operate at their prior capacity. The need for additional supportive housing in the community is now greater than ever. The recent Point-in-Time Homeless Count, which was conducted March 12th, 2020, by the Cowichan Housing Association, reported that 137 people need housing in our region. Executive Director of the Cowichan Housing Association, John Horn, says “we know this number doesn’t capture everyone, but it gives us a good starting place for creating the response plans. Our organization is committed to finding permanent long-term affordable housing solutions; however, at this time we recognize the need to find temporary emergency housing solutions and we are working diligently with our partners to make this happen.”

Mayor Staples, City of Duncan, says that she is not surprised at how quickly this plan has come together. “This is what we do in Cowichan: we connect, we stay strong and we don’t give up. Together, we will find a way to ensure that everyone has a place to be safe, housed and supported.”

“This community’s response to the urgent needs for the Cowichan’s homeless population has been exemplary. From the beginning, task force members have worked tirelessly to identify solutions for this community,“ says MLA Sonia Furstenau. “It makes me feel proud to represent the Cowichan Valley when I see this collaborative effort, from hotels offering accommodation for homeless people, to front-line workers finding creative ways to continue food services through increasingly challenging circumstances. I am hopeful this effort will keep our community safe and healthy as we work together through this pandemic.”

The task force will continue to provide updates and more detailed information over the next days and weeks.


For more information, please contact:

Michelle Staples, Mayor
City of Duncan
T:  250-746-6126
John Horn, Executive Director
Cowichan Housing Association
T: 250-597-1938

Up to this point, the COVID-19 Task Force for Vulnerable Populations has included participation from the following organizations:

  • Canadian Mental Health Association
  • City of Duncan
  • Community Action Team
  • Cowichan Division of Family Practice
  • Cowichan Housing Association
  • Cowichan Neighbourhood House
  • Cowichan Tribes
  • Cowichan Valley Regional District
  • Cowichan Women Against Violence Society
  • Island Health
  • Island Health Mental Health and Substance Use
  • Ladysmith Resource Centre Association
  • Municipality of North Cowichan
  • RCMP
  • School District No. 79
  • Service Canada
  • Social Planning Cowichan
  • Sonia Furstenau, MLA
  • Town of Ladysmith
  • Town of Lake Cowichan
  • United Way