While there are some services for those struggling without a home in District 69, others still “fall through the cracks.”
That’s how Bob described his experience living in the Parksville area where he has been looking for “a clean quiet place, nothing fancy.”
There is an “extreme weather” homeless shelter, operated by the Salvation Army and Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness, but it is only open when it’s snowing, below -2 C or near zero with rain.
There are also a number of services accessible through task force member groups like the Society of Organized Services (SOS), Salvation Army and Lions Club housing projects.
Bob said he is having a lot of trouble navigating the system and is on some wait lists that are rumoured to be years long.
Renata Sutherland, executive director of the SOS and task force co-chair, said every case is different and a lot of the possible help depends on the individual’s specific obstacles to finding regular housing.
Groups like the SOS and Salvation Army are the best point of entry both for people looking for help and looking to help or donate, she said and they can help direct them to the most appropriate service.
Bob, who said he has emphysema and hardening of his arteries, came to Parksville specifically to get away from Victoria where he said the “homeless scene is all about drugs,” and he was surprised to find one of the housing options here is only open to people struggling with substance abuse.
“There are no doors opening, everyone keeps passing the buck,” Bob complained and said he would love any help that was available.
The NEWS met Bob while he was being helped by Robin Campbell and the Mana Ministries van, which circulates in the region distributing basic emergency supplies like tents and sleeping bags, which Campbell said they could always use more of.
The van can be found from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at the Parksville Legion. To make a donation, help or get help call 250-248-0845 or ask at any church.
On days the emergency shelter is going to open (from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.) the Salvation Army puts out a sign and notices go up at strategic locations throughout the region like the Errington Post Office, Career Centre and St. Stephen’s Church soup kitchen in Qualicum Beach. Partners like the SOS, RCMP, BC Ambulance, health authority and regional district are also notified.
The shelter is in the Salvation Army Church, 187 Alberni Highway in downtown Parksville. They have a 24-hour phone (250-954-3082) where people can find out if the shelter is open or get the number of the crisis line.
While some may not be aware of there being a homelessness issue in the region, a survey last year counted 43 homeless people, including five children.