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Preventing homelessness goal of Oceanside task force

Unhoused population on the rise in Parskville Qualicum Beach
Building non-market affordable housing is the goal of the new Oceanside Non-Market Housing Task Force. (PQB News photo)

When a single mother with young children faces eviction from their home, it can be a significantly stressful and depressing situation.

"Where would they go?" is often the biggest question that arises.

The executive director of Island Crisis Care Society, Violet Hayes, one of the co-chairs of the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness, said they have been receiving regular calls from people facing eviction and losing their homes with nowhere else to go.

"There simply are no places for them to go anymore," Hayes related during the Oceanside Non-Market Housing Task Force community information session on June 14, designed to discuss critical housing issues in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area. "You look around and you see these amazing buildings going up. Yes, they're there but they're very expensive."

Hayes pointed out that some people end up living in their cars, streets and in some secluded areas. 

"If we can prevent homelessness, that's the first thing we want to do," Hayes said. "Once people get out in the streets, desperation sets in. And then we see all sorts of things happening that wouldn't happen likely if they could be housed right away."

When they've become desperate and things seem hopeless, Hayes said, many turn to drug and alcohol addiction. 

"I have to ask myself, 'if I suddenly end up in the streets and didn't have a place to stay dry, what would I do?'"  Hayes asked. "It's just unimaginable."

Parksville Qualicum Beach, Hayes also pointed out, does not have temporary shelter.

"The best thing is to have a full continuum, to have a shelter all the way to big houses and have everything in between," Hayes said. "So, I really just want to put it out there that all these things work together." 

The Oceanside Non-Market Housing Task Force was just formed last year, and differs from the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness. The community information session aimed to find innovative affordable housing solutions in the community, which is urgently lacking compared to other jurisdictions on Vancouver Island.  

In 2023, BC Housing, the Ministry of Housing, and the Homelessness Services Association of BC collaborated on point-in-time homeless counts conducted across the province. It provided important baseline information on the estimated numbers, key demographics and service provision needs of people experiencing homelessness. The count produced a snapshot of people who are experiencing homelessness in a 24-hour period.

The count In Parksville Qualicum Beach area was conducted on the evening of April 25 and daytime on April 21. There were 103 people identified as experiencing homelessness, compared to 87 in 2021.

Thirty-two per cent live in their vehicles, with 28 per cent wandering and sleeping in the streets and 20 per cent living at someone else's home. Approximately 75 per cent are adults aged 25-54 years old; nearly 25 per cent are seniors aged 55 and over; and the remainder are youth under 25.

As for the overlapping main reasons for becoming homeless, 56 per cent indicated they are not earning enough money to afford a home; 31 per cent had conflicts with their landlords; 21 per cent were involved in a conflict with their spouse or partner; and 21 per cent had substance use issues.

Hayes found the Parksville Qualicum Beach homelessness statistics (per capita) surprising compared to other bigger communities on Vancouver Island. 

"The first one is Port Alberni, the second one is Campbell. River and the third one is Oceanside," said Hayes. "That was shocking to me because I iive in Nanaimo and I would have said that Nanaimo was worse. It's simply not true. Courtenay, Comox Valley is better than here. When I go to Courtenay, I am always shocked with the number of people that I see on the streets. We have the numbers but it's just they are more hidden here."

Hayes indicated that it is crucial to find ways to address the affordable housing crisis in the Parksville Qualicum Beach.

"We really need it here."




Michael Briones

About the Author: Michael Briones

I rejoined the PQB News team in April 2017 from the Comox Valley Echo, having previously covered sports for The NEWS in 1997.
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