A couple of events in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area will help mark Homelessness Action Week in B.C. (Oct. 12-18).
“We have two events planned, the sleep outside challenge will help raise awareness,” said Oceanside Task Force On Homelessness coordinator Sarah Poole, “and on Thursday we’ll have the Project Connect Health Fair.”
The fair is meant as direct action to help people in need, while the sleep outside challenge is meant to address the bigger picture and help raise awareness, giving participants a more personal understanding of the conditions that some locals face every night.
A second count in May 2013 found 67 people in the area who identified as being homeless or at-risk of homelessness, including 40 per cent over the age of 45 and 75 per cent with a physical or mental health disability.
Affordable housing was identified as the largest need by 73 per cent. The Salvation Army Food Bank also has an average of 400 clients a month.
Poole said that homelessness can take a number of forms from couch surfing to living out of a car to sleeping rough, or outdoors, which leaves people highly susceptible to health issues.
Participants in the sleep outside in the cold challenge (who are already registered) can only bring what they can fit in a backpack or garbage bag including a sleeping bag and mat, but they cannot use tents. Breakfast will be provided at the Courtyard Cafe the next morning.
The health fair the next day will bring about 20 service providers together at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre from 1-4 p.m., Oct. 16. Poole said there will be everyone from dental hygienists and optometrists to photographers and hair dressers offering services and information.
“The fair is targeted to the homeless, but anybody is welcome,” Poole said. “The main goal of the week is to help people recognize homelessness does exist in this area.”
A joint local project is aiming to help people access and maintain housing in the area. The Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness is supporting the Island Crisis Care Society’s fundraiser to help local people access and maintain housing. Funds donated will be matched by the Bienfaisance Foundation. Organizers say the funds are running out fast, competing with other B.C. social service campaigns. Get more information or donate as little as $5 at https://chimp.net/groups/oceanside-task-force-on-homelessness.