I want to clear up some misconceptions created in the article. A subcommittee of the Cowichan Coalition to End Homelessness has been working for two years to provide an overnight winter shelter for homeless women in the Cowichan Valley. The initiative emerged out of two point-in-time counts that found 17 women absolutely homeless and many more precariously housed. It seemed like a minimal and doable response to support this group of vulnerable women.

Amos Semigak moved to Happy Valley-Goose Bay from his hometown of Hopedale on the north Labrador coast last spring, and he did so without any real prospects of work or a place to stay.

Even with those challenges weighing heavily on his mind, he thought the support available in the town might give him a fighting chance of turning his life around.

“There’s no place for me to go in my community,” Semigak said.

“Coming here in Goose Bay, at least I have a chance staying at the homeless shelter, at the hub. And that’s what’s keeping me alive right now.”

Advocates in the Lower Mainland are concerned about losing momentum in the fight against homelessness as they await a new slate of elected officials in many municipalities.

This fall, more mayors and councillors than usual are stepping down from their roles, leaving room for new officials with their own ideas about how to tackle homelessness in their communities.

Terry Willis, a Victoria man of 50 with a rare cancer, denied treatment because of where he lives, is now a national headline. Willis was told that his oncologist would not start chemotherapy while he’s living in supportive housing, because his compromised immune system would put him at high risk of infection. While Island Health and the B.C. Cancer Agency have since determined that he can receive treatment while living in his housing, Willis’s story draws attention to the thousands more in our city who sleep on couches and in cars, in overcrowded dwellings or housing where their access to health care is limited or restricted.

Social assistance is often where people end up after they have exhausted all of their resources and have nowhere else to turn. There is widespread agreement that the current system is inefficient, that money is wasted on monitoring recipients and enforcing a multitude of rules that seem to serve no purpose except to make life difficult for those who are already struggling. Eligibility requirements are tough and once on the system, people often become trapped. The system is not designed to help recipients tackle their barriers to employment. As a result, transitioning off social assistance for employment can be difficult, leaving few avenues for people to break the cycle of poverty. The current system makes little sense if the goal is to help people become more self-sufficient. Furthermore, existing social assistance programs provide little support to the working poor or those trapped in precarious employment.

The results of St. Thomas and Elgin County’s first homelessness count are in and the housing administrator is calling them “illuminating.”

In a report to go before council Monday, Ralph West said the results, which showed 159 people in the city and county identified as being homeless or imminently homeless at the time of the survey, will help housing services and other organizations.

Duncan council has rejected a proposal for a 15-bed temporary winter shelter for women that was strongly opposed by neighbours.

The vote underscores the issue of how to provide safe shelter for homeless women. In Nanaimo, a shortage of shelter beds sent some women to a tent city for homeless people that was ordered to shut down next month.