‘Handmade for Hope,’ a proposed program at Orca Place, has now been approved by Parksville council.
The program will allow residents of Orca Place, a supportive housing complex, to learn how to make and market craft items for sale. The two objectives of the program are: “to provide basic pre-employment skills to individuals within Orca Place supportive housing who may be experiencing barriers to employment and to increase public awareness and support that will in turn help to change the narrative and public perception of those experiencing or at risk of homelessness in the community.”
Council initially denied the proposal and said instead they’d instead allow use of the space as a hobby and exercise room — no business allowed.
Since council rejected the proposal in November 2019, BC Housing and Island Crisis Care Society received $25,000 in funding from The Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia. They also changed the wording of the proposal, to specify that the program would be just for Orca Place residents, rather than “participants” as previously stated. However, ICCS said the program was always intended just for residents.
“After rewriting to proposal, we were given the opportunity to address questions regarding the program from a number of councilors. During that meeting, we heard their concerns and realized that they had misunderstood the intention of the program,” said Corrie Corfield, assistant executive director at ICCS, in an email. “Those concerns were focused around wording in the proposal which council believed would lead to us opening a fully functioning business within Orca Place that would be open to participants that were not residents of Orca Place.”
Coun. Marilyn Wilson said she made the motion at the March 2 council meeting to clarify that the program was only for residents of Orca Place.
“The proposal is fine for me, it’s just clarifying who it’s for,” she said. “Basically that’s what the motion is about.”
Coun. Adam Fras voted in opposition.
“I think it falls in line with what we’ve already approved previously, with that part of it I don’t have the same concerns I’ve had in the past,” he said. “But I don’t know if it’s necessary for the approval that they’re seeking here.”
The program will now take place in unoccupied rooms in the building, ones originally designed as shelter spaces.
The city secured full control over the use of the Orca Place property by purchasing it for $700,000 and repaying a $492,400 grant-in-aid to the Regional District of Nanaimo in May 2019. With the purchase, the housing facility no longer required an eight-bed, cold-weather shelter, which was a requirement of the RDN. That space has since been unused.
Corfield said they’re excited to get the ball rolling, but that it’s “unfortunate that this small program has required so many resources to gain approval.”
“ICCS is grateful that we can now begin developing this innovative and supportive program to our residents at Orca Place and that some of the rooms that have sat empty since our opening will have a renewed purpose,” she said.
Corfield said anyone who is interested in volunteering with ICCS in any capacity, but especially with the Handmade for Hope program can contact their volunteer co-ordinator, Sara, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 778-842-0263, ext. 107 for more information and to register.