Homeless task force’s proposal to B.C. Housing not up to standard, says cabinet minister

'I think by definition it fails to meet the requirements of a feasibility study,' says Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell

A housing/homeless shelter proposal submitted by a local task force to B.C. Housing doesn’t meet the standard and will have to be re-worked, says MLA Michelle Stilwell.

The Oceanside Homelessness Task Force received a $10,000 gaming grant from the provincial government in April to develop a plan. Task force officials said last week there’s nothing in that plan that hasn’t been discussed for months or years — no drawings, budget or costing info. They also couldn’t detail exactly how that $10,000 was spent.

Stilwell confirmed last week the submission was not what she expected. In fact, she said she wasn’t even told the task force was going to submit an application for funding to B.C. Housing.

“Their application was based on their vision, not a feasibility study,” said Stilwell. “Maybe there was some misunderstanding on what a feasibility study looks like, I’m not sure. Certainly putting that proposal to B.C. Housing is not going to be enough to solidify a solution.”

Stilwell said she read a copy of what the task force sent to B.C. Housing last week.

“I think by definition it fails to meet the requirements of a feasibility study,” said Stilwell. “All of the stakeholders are very passionate about this project — we want to see it succeed. But I think they might have jumped a little too soon. Maybe they felt pressure to get it done and get it done now.”

Sarah Poole, who left the employ of the task force and the Society of Organized Services last week to further her education, told The NEWS before she left that the task force was waiting for the city to fulfil a commitment it made in the spring to provide land for a facility.

Poole and task force co-chair Violet Hayes said without the land from the city it’s not possible to provide B.C. Housing with any specifics about any future building.

Mayor Marc Lefebvre said last week the city was waiting on the task force and word from B.C. Housing, a comment that when coupled with what the task force was saying, seemed to create a situation where nothing was going to proceed.

The task force has said publicly it wants to provide a facility with 30 housing units, 10-20 shelter beds, public laundry and shower, drop-in centre, kitchen facilities, garden space and offices for support staff and other related services.

That vision, without any detail, is what was sent to B.C. Housing.

In February of this year, the provincial government announced that over the next five years, it is committing a total of $355 million to create upwards of 2,000 new affordable housing units across British Columbia.

“This is the largest single social and affordable housing investment in the province’s history,” Premier Christy Clark said at the time.

Through the new Provincial Investment In Affordable Housing Program, individuals with low to moderate income will have access to additional affordable housing options throughout the province, said the province. The funds will be distributed over a five year period, with $50 million in 2016-17, $50 million in 2017-18,  $75 million in 2018-19, $90 million 2019-20 and $90 million in 2020-21.

• There is still no word on a home for the extreme weather homeless shelter this winter.

As we reported last week, homeless people in Parksville Qualicum Beach will be without shelter from the cold this winter unless an option is found to replace the location used for the last few years.

In recent years, the shelter has operated out of the Salvation Army Church at the intersection of Alberni Highway and McMillan Street in downtown Parksville. Members of the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness say they have been told that facility is no longer available.

“If we don’t find an answer for the extreme weather shelter there’s going to be a lot of people who don’t have somewhere to go this winter,” Poole said last week.

The task force must apply for provincial government funding to run the shelter by Sept. 1. They can’t do that without a location.

“Maybe there will be someone who comes forward and says ‘I have an empty storefront’ or something like that,” said Hayes, who is also the executive director of the Island Crisis Care Society. Call Hayes at 778-441-4227 or e-mail vhayes@iccare.ca if you can help.

Last year, the shelter was open for 63 nights between Nov. 1, 2015 and March 31 of this year. The task force members said they would like the shelter to change its designation from extreme weather to cold weather, which means it would be open every night between those dates and not subject to a daily determination of the weather.

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