The Parksville Qualicum Beach region will have an extreme weather shelter this winter.
Island Crisis Care Society (ICCS) announced Monday an extreme weather shelter (EWS) will open in a temporary location for 2016-2017 at 223 Mill Street in Parksville.
Vancouver Island University (VIU) is donating space in the former Pass Woodwinds childcare building to serve as the EWS, which will operate from November 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 to serve the homeless of the Oceanside region. The shelter will be open from 6 p.m. until 8 a.m. on nights of inclement or extreme weather.
The ICCS, which has operated emergency shelter services in Nanaimo since 1989, entered into a contract with the Society of Organized Services (SOS) to provide the EWS for the Oceanside region.
Extreme weather response (EWR) funding is provided by the provincial government for community-based service organizations to provide temporary emergency shelter during periods of extreme winter weather which threatens the health and safety of the homeless, according to a news release sent to The NEWS by the City of Parksville. It is because of a partnership with MLA Michelle Stilwell's office, Vancouver Island University and the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness that an extreme weather shelter will open for this winter, said the release.
"There was much relief when VIU offered the old Pass Woodwinds childcare building as a location for the extreme weather shelter," said Violet Hayes, ICCS executive director. "The task force is thankful for the support of Michelle Stilwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum and Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation, who was instrumental in finding us this space."
Stillwell said: "It takes a community of organizations and people to come together to make things like this happen and I am grateful that I was able to be part of the solution. This shelter would not be possible without the significant efforts of the Island Crisis Care Society, Forward House, Society of Organized Services and members of the Taskforce on Homelessness. I am also thankful to Ralph Nilson and VIU for stepping up when I made the call. This is a positive step for our community and I look forward to working with partners to help bring more solutions forward in the future."
Dr. Ralph Nilson, VIU's President and Vice-Chancellor, said that providing space for an extreme weather shelter supports one of the University's fundamental values.
"This shelter will provide a critical community asset for those in need and is another example of how VIU is engaged in the communities we serve," he said. "It also reflects one of our key values of supporting the most vulnerable members of our society. This is evident through the work VIU does through programs such as the Tuition Waiver for Youth in Care. We've also established numerous community partnerships to promote and support initiatives such as the Canada Learning Bond, aimed at creating opportunities to access education for those who are living in poverty. Working with ICCS and SOS to provide this shelter is another example of these community partnerships and our commitment to this important work."
The ICCS is asking the community to help with much needed items for the shelter including: a fridge, stove, dishwasher, stackable washer/dryer, table, chairs as well as many miscellaneous kitchen and household items (crockpots, plates, cutlery, etc.) To donate large items, please call 250-954-3268 for pickup. Smaller items may be dropped off at Hirst House, 151 East Hirst Ave. in Parksville.
The ICCS is also looking for volunteers to prepare meals as well as staff to work when the shelter is open. Job postings for volunteers and support workers are located on the ICCS website.
"We are looking at a quick start-up for this program, so we are asking for everyone's help to spread the word so we can train our volunteers and staff members as soon as possible," said Hayes.
The shelter is available to men and women aged 19 and older as well as family groups. The main focus of the EWS is to provide beds and keep folks safe that would otherwise be at risk to the elements. A dinner and breakfast is provided.
Children, under the age of 19, can receive service if accompanied by their parent/guardian or if they are referred to the provider by a social worker acting under the Child, Family and Community Service Act.
The first EWS opened in 2011 and since this time, has been regularly used. From November 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014, the EWS was active on 58 nights with 133 client visits. In 2015-2016, the shelter was open 37 nights with 64 male attendances and 24 female attendances.
Extreme weather conditions are defined by the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness. Implementation of the Extreme Weather Response Plan is called by the Society of Organized Services as the regional co-ordinator when weather conditions are deemed severe enough to present a substantial threat to the life or health of homeless persons. Criteria may include: temperatures near zero with rainfall that makes it difficult or impossible for homeless people to remain dry; sleet/freezing rain; snow accumulation; sustained high winds; temperatures at or below -2 Celsius, taking into account wind chill; feedback from clientele of the region's service providers may also be considered and other factors.
— NEWS Staff/City of Parksville news release