You may have noticed an item in today’s paper concerning the upcoming referendum on Bylaw 389, better known to most of us as the “Homelessness Referendum”. This will take place on November 28, and is something that merits serious attention.
During the last municipal election, we were asked for a non-binding opinion on a very important question: would we be willing to pay a few extra tax dollars per year to support initiatives that address homelessness in the Comox Valley? As it turns out, 71% of voters responded in the affirmative, saying that they’d be willing to pay at least $5 a year in additional taxes.
The service area affected by this bylaw includes the City of Courtenay, Village of Cumberland, Electoral Area ‘A’ (excluding Denman and Hornby Islands), Electoral Area ‘B’ and Electoral Area ‘C’. (Comox has opted out of participation, saying that they prefer to use other strategies in that community.)
The proposed rate of additional taxation is 2 cents per $1000 of assessed property value — for example, $6 per year for a residential property assessed at $300,000. The next step would be to create a service for the management and disbursement of these funds to non-governmental organizations, who then provide direct services to the homeless. The subject of this referendum is to seek public approval to create this funding service.
For the cost of a couple of take-out lattes, this seems like a very fair ask. You can bet that I’ll be supporting this long-overdue initiative. A lot of people complain about panhandlers on the street, campers in public parks, and people hanging out in the public library or other free-entry buildings. Truth is, they’ve got few other options to eat or keep warm, access sanitation, or just spend the daytime hours in safety. Here’s a chance to do something about it at the municipal level — and please remember, these governments represent us. They need our mandate to do this. The money raised will be a drop in the bucket compared to the actual need that exists, but it’s a start.
I’d urge everyone to get out to vote, however you feel about the referendum question. To see full details and to read the bylaw in its entirety, just follow the link below: