Nearly a year after getting funding to plan a supportive housing project in Parksville, the province announced Friday $6.9 million in funding to build supportive modular housing units at the site.
The news came from B.C.’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Selina Robinson, at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre, not far from where the housing will be built.
Approximately 50 housing units are planned to be built at 222 Corfield St. South, with a goal of opening the facility by spring 2019.
The project is being taken on through a partnership with the Regional District of Nanaimo, the City of Parksville and the Town of Qualicum Beach, with Island Crisis Care Society (ICCS) to be on site at the facility to provide full-time support.
The permanent modular housing is part of a provincial project that saw 78 such units opened last month in Vancouver’s downtown east side, said Robinson.
On top of the 2,000 units the province announced would be funded in September, Robinson said another 2,500 will be built across B.C.
“New homes just like this one, with 24/7 support services,” she said.
“I think it’s important to highlight in this housing is that it includes individual units where people can have their own private washroom,” she said.
“That’s the kind of dignity that people need. Where they can go to the washroom, their own washroom, where they can have a little kitchen area to prepare a cup of tea or some toast. In these modular units, people will also have access to meal services, counselling, medical services and life and employment skills training. So it’s really a wrap-around — providing people with arms around them so that they can be successful.”
ICCS chair Susanne Lee called it a “hopeful day” when such funding is announced.
“For some, this supportive housing will keep them from becoming homeless. For others, this is their first permanent home in a very long time,” said Lee.
“A qualified staff team will be there to reinforce client strengths, teach new skills, helping individuals maintain their tenancy, and directing them to local resources right here in Oceanside… Once stable housing is in place, we can help those tenants make goals and move to achieve them.”
Sharon Welch, co-chair of the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness, said the project has been a dream for the task force.
“It’s been something we’ve worked towards for years, and it’s so exciting to see it coming together,” she said.
Local politicians, including Parksville Mayor Mark Lefebvre and board chair of the Regional District of Nanaimo board chair Bill Veenhof, along with Robinson, touted the project as a feat of multi-government and non-profit co-operation.
“We do have people that are poor, we do have people that are mentally ill, we do have people that are addicted, and they need help,” said Lefebvre. “They are human beings and they all need our help. This is a great opportunity to do that, and hopefully we will be successful in getting people back on their feet… and being regular members of society again, full-fledged members of society.”
Asked how much of the homeless population in the area the facility could help, Richard Powell, information manager with ICCS, said it would go a long way toward housing people that ICCS has identified so far and placed on a waiting list through an existing, multi-organizational system.
The ultimate method for selecting who would be housed at the future supportive housing site has not yet been finalized, he added.
In two point-in-time counts done through the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness (in 2011 and 2013), 66 and 68 homeless individuals were counted. However, those numbers are understood to likely not encompass all those who are homeless in the area.
The goal for completion and occupancy of the housing site is spring 2019, said Heidi Hartman, Vancouver Island regional director for BC Housing.
For more information, ICCS, BC Housing and the Oceanside homelessness task force will be holding a drop-in open house on Tuesday, March 20 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre (132 Jensen Ave. East) to share info on the project and its future operations.