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Camosun students, Rock Bay Landing clients team up on cleanup

A team of Camosun College students and clients of Rock Bay Landing hit the streets Monday armed with paint buckets and brushes.
Clean and Safe team members Yvonne VandenBoomen, left, and Jamie O'Hara paint a utility pole near the Rock Bay Landing emergency shelter on Monday.

A team of Camosun College students and clients of Rock Bay Landing hit the streets Monday armed with paint buckets and brushes.

The aim was to erase some of the graffiti that crops up on walls and utility poles, pick up garbage and do something positive for the shelter’s commercial neighbours.

“Looks like they’re doing a good job,” said Gerry Brouwer, owner of Parkside Motors, which is immediately adjacent the 89-bed complex on Ellice Street.

Alex, a 24-year-old who preferred that his last name not be published, came out to help on Monday because he’s grateful for the help he’s received from the Cool Aid Society.

He said he has lived at the shelter for three weeks but has new housing arrangements in the offing.

“I’ve been living off disability assistance for a few years now and before that, regular welfare,” said Alex, who has mental-health issues. “I had a really rough time finding employment and housing. My budget is really small so there’s a small selection of things I can afford.”

The Cool Aid Society has “been really great to me,” Alex said. “I want to give back because I’m extremely grateful for the society being here for me — I wouldn’t want to know what would have happened if they hadn’t been there.”

The Clean and Safe team, composed of shelter volunteers and clients from Rock Landing, operates every day, picking up garbage, needles and other debris in the neighbourhood, said Chris Geater of Victoria Cool Aid Society, which runs the shelter.

Those who participate get a small monthly honorarium, Geater said.

“People who are at the shelter ... are really keen to make a change in their lives,” he said. “One in four people at the shelter has a job while they’re staying here. So having a chance to earn some money, get a good reference and give back a little bit — those are all good reasons to join the Clean and Safe Team.

The average client stays at the shelter seven to 15 days, Geater said, “and then they’re moving on to a better situation.”

Yvonne VandenBoomen, 23, said she and four other Camosun College students who came out to help are studying criminal justice. She said her reasons for coming out were to “get some community involvement with the people staying here and to help make the community look nicer.”

Businesses that regularly support Rock Bay Landing include Hyundai, Chew Excavating, Ralmax and Ellice Recycling.