Dinner and panel discussion on homelessness set for Nov. 24 in Parksville

Tickets for the dinner are limited — NEWS editor John Harding will moderate the discussion

Hot off the success of the second annual Project Connect Health Fair, the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness invites everyone to a dinner and panel discussion on November 24.

“It’s about looking at the solutions that we have and considering where the community should go from here,” said the task force’s Sarah Poole.

Dinner, by Parksville’s social enterprise Pie Factory, starts at 4:30 p.m. for a suggested $10-$20 donation. It will be followed by a discussion — moderated by The NEWS’ John Harding — on a range of homelessness-related topics.

Poole said they will describe the services and success of the new Oceanside Homeless (Housing) Outreach Support Team and challenges they face to house people, the general task force progress and “we will also have a questions and ideas period at the end where we will consider where to go from here.”

She said that while there is a long way to go, there has been progress in awareness and working towards long-term housing.

“A big part of the discussion is going to be making sure that we have community support to pursue a full-time shelter and supportive housing — really it’s about supportive housing.”

They will also highlight the success of the Oct. 14 homelessness health fair at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre where about 40 people without a home, or at risk of homelessness, had access to 15 services and agencies.

The free services included everything from hairdressers and foot care specialists to people providing vaccines and eyeglasses. Poole said the turn-out was lower than last year due to changes in the location and transportation.

A count in May 2013 found 67 people in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region who identified as being homeless or at-risk.

The task force is comprised of local governments and groups like the Society of Organized Services (SOS), Salvation Army, Manna Homeless Society and others.

Tickets for the dinner are limited — 20 will be set aside for people who can’t afford it — e-mail Poole now at homelessness@sosd69.com to register by Nov. 18 and note if you are vegetarian.

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