Who We Are and What We Do
Comox Bay Care Society Care-A-Van is a non profit, community funded mobile outreach health unit, providing no fee health care and social development services directly to clients on the streets of Comox Valley.
Our skilled team of 50 volunteer nurses, doctors, pharmacists, audiologists, optometrist, dentists, denturist, harm reduction workers, advocate, social worker, occupational therapist, chiropractors, supply managers, cleaners, board members, technical staff and drivers are committed to providing low-barrier, ethical and compassionate services.
Since 2009 more than 1700 individuals, homeless or at-risk of homelessness, have received health care services from the Care-a-van, with 314 new individuals in 2018 (484 people actively using our services in 2018). The total number of people using Care-A-Van Services has increased by 45% since 2015.
Many of the people we serve have identified previously feeling stigmatized and blamed regarding their experience of homelessness, or shamed for poor health, mental health conditions and addictions. Most have experienced challenges navigating a health care system fraught with paperwork and bureaucracy and were not accessing services prior to engagement with the Care-a-Van staff.
Our aim is to assist people to overcome barriers accessing health care and social development services.
We are giving back to our community with our professional skill sets, because we are sensitive to social inequities and recognize that there is no better way to break through stereotypes and reach someone than to go to them in their own environment.
Our interventions are cost effective, simple and meaningful!
We rely on the generosity of local organizations, businesses, and individuals to provide our services.. Please visit our donors page to see our list of ongoing and major supporters.
Our activities can be broken into three main areas; interventions, prevention and social connection.
Our medical service provision is entirely low barrier and accessible in a manner that few health resources are. The Mobile Health Care Unit arrives at a designated location publicized throughout the community and clients are able to immediately speak to and interact with physicians and nurses on site regarding their health needs. We address immediate concerns on site, provide liaison services with community partners and other health professionals, assess for follow up and provide direct support in the provision of food, clothing and shelter (tents, sleeping bags and tarps). Our volunteer medical staff provide welcoming compassionate trauma informed care, free health assessments/services, wound care, foot care, health monitoring, free hygiene supplies, dental/denture service, audiology screening and follow up, vision screening and follow up, harm reduction education, supplies and services, referral to: detox treatment, mental health service, outreach programs and support with health promotional strategies, provision of on site phone services to arrange appointments and facilitate transportation.
Our approach includes assessments of concerns that address both the immediate and longer term consequences of our client's living circumstances. Our aim is to put supports in place which prevent further deterioration of an individual's circumstances. By acting as a point of contact for other medical and service interventions we can ensure that clients are transported to follow-up appointments, are represented in interactions with government services and are better able to express their needs to service providers. This ensures that health conditions and housing concerns are addressed at the earliest stage, before more serious emergency circumstances emerge.
Through our service provision we build relationships and provide advocacy for those in the community that are hardest to reach. As a result, our volunteer staff can build trusted relationships with our target population and assist them in establishing or reestablishing connections with the broader community and support sector. Our impact is measured by noting the number of clients we are able to incorporate into medical care, support through retention with government and non governmental systems and assure they receive ongoing support in accessing appropriate housing and supports.
Last year alone we served a total of 336 new clients for a diversity of health and social service needs.