November 30, 2023

A man and his dog were injured Saturday in Courtenay, B.C. after being dumped into a garbage truck, along with the contents of the cardboard disposal bin they had sheltered in amid cold weather.

First responders attended the incident around Kilpatrick Avenue after the driver of the truck was flagged by a passerby.

The 53-year-old man’s injuries were not serious and his dog was treated at the Comox Valley and District BC SPCA for a split lip. Both have since been released.

The bin was located on private property.

Click to play video: 'Dozens of people displaced after dumpster fire spreads to Nanaimo condo'

Dozens of people displaced after dumpster fire spreads to Nanaimo condo

The incident comes less than two weeks after Courtenay joined the K’ómoks First Nation, other Comox Valley governments, and the Coalition to End Homelessness in asking for more community support finding a location for an extreme weather shelter as winter approaches.

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The 2023 Comox Valley Homeless Count found more than a doubling in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the region from 2020, jumping from 132 to 272.

Mayor Bob Wells estimated Tuesday that about 100 people in the city have no overnight shelter access.

“It’s still a crisis that we’re all really reeling from,” Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells said in an interview, referencing the ongoing search for an emergency shelter space.

“In a perfect world, we’d have this all organized and really, ready to go for Nov. 1, but that’s tomorrow, and we’re still really working hard to make sure that we get a location as quick as possible.”

Click to play video: 'West Kelowna man injured after being scooped up by garbage truck'

West Kelowna man injured after being scooped up by garbage truck

Nicole Morrison, a community support worker and member of the Comox Valley Coalition To End Homeless, also said Saturday’s “very unfortunate” incident highlights the need for more shelter options in the area.

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“When it’s freezing, our temperatures have been below -4 C, -6 C sometimes through the night, so it’s not unusual to have somebody climb into a bin if that’s the only area they can shelter from the elements,” she said.

“We have two shelters here in the Comox Valley that are both running, we would expect at full capacity. Easily we could put another 70 to 100 people inside overnight if we had the space for that.”

Click to play video: 'Man killed in Victoria garbage truck accident'

Man killed in Victoria garbage truck accident

At the legislature in Victoria on Tuesday, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said his department has been working closely with city council in Courtenay to find a location for the emergency shelter.

“It’s been a challenge, many sites that we’ve come forward with have been rejected for various reasons and we’re hoping we can land on some locations for that community,” he said.

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“Generally, we’ve just announced 5,000 shelter spaces that will be open for emergency. We know the weather is getting colder, we want to see people move indoors.”

Click to play video: 'West Kelowna man injured after being scooped up by garbage truck'

West Kelowna man injured after being scooped up by garbage truck

Saturday’s incident is not the first case of injury stemming from people sheltering in dumpsters.

In Victoria, a man was killed in August 2018 after the bin he was in was picked up by a garbage truck. In West Kelowna in December last year, another man survived two cycles of a garbage truck compactor with only minor injuries.

Wells said shelter is the best solution to prevent these kinds of incidents from happening, but he has also had conversations with business owners in the city about locking up their bins at night. He cited both a fire risk, and the risk of someone using them as shelter and getting hurt.

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“I’ll certainly be re-amplifying my own concerns around it. I’ll be talking, actually, to our downtown business organization tomorrow night,” Wells said.

“It’ll definitely be one of the things that I mention at that point, and I’ll also be talking with our chamber of commerce, making sure they also get that message out to their membership.”

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