A boarded-up building in Parksville that was once Vancouver Island German Jujutsu Systems may become a homeless shelter.
Parksville Coun. Al Greir said he would like to see the city-owned building and property donated to the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness, but fellow councillors expressed hesitation at last week’s budget meeting when Grier introduced the idea.
“As everyone knows we’ve talked about doing something for the homeless… and we haven’t come up with very much,” said Greir, borrowing a line from Coun. Kirk Oates:
“Doing nothing is not an option.”
Grier seemed eager to make a motion Monday night, but council referred the matter back to staff for a report about the state of the building and property as well as potential liability issues.
The building sits behind the Benjamin Moore paint store along McVickers Street and has been empty for at least five years, Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Kim Burden confirmed with The NEWS.
Oates expressed opposition to donating the building, wondering aloud if it was the best use of taxpayer assets.
“We’re talking about giving a piece of property away to a group without a plan,” said Oates. “They haven’t come to us and said ‘if you give us this, we will do that’ so I can’t support this without more background information.”
Oates said he refused to support “giving away a prime piece of downtown property in an effort to combat an issue for no other reason than to combat an issue.”
“If the desire is to do something for the task force, build a parking lot out of it and give them a percentage of the revenue from now until the end of time,” Oates suggested. “There’s lots of ways we can help the task force other than giving away the taxpayers’ assets.”
Greir said he has been in conversation with Renate Sutherland, the former co-chair of the task force who recently stepped down and was replaced by Violet Hayes, the executive director of Island Crisis Care Society.
According to Greir, Sutherland was “ecstatic.”
Coun. Sue Powell? Not so much.
Powell questioned how “appropriate” is was for Grier to approach the task force before the matter had been discussed privately by council.
“What we have now is something that’s already out of the gate and we don’t have enough information,” said Powell. “I’d like to see a report from staff so we can at least make an informed decision.”
Mayor Marc Lefebvre said city council has been “frustrated” by this issue for years. “Sometimes you want to take the bull by the horns,” he said. “We’ll need to look at getting public input… the grenade has gone off.”
Sharon Welch, co chair of the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness, told The NEWS Friday she’s “excited” to hear council is stepping up and trying to come up with solutions.
“It would certainly head us toward our goal,” she said about getting the building and property donated. “I think we’ve got some momentum going here and we want to keep riding that. We’re really appreciative to the city for anything they can do to help with this problem.”