A year-round, supportive housing project in Parksville moved a giant step toward reality last week, when the Regional District of Nanimo partnered with the City of Parksville and the Town of Qualicum Beach on the purchase of a Parksville lot and while Province of B.C. contributed $30,000 for a building development study.
The property is vacant land located at 222 Corfield St., across from the end of Jensen Avenue. The purchase price of $700,000 included contributions from the Parksville and Qualicum Beach and each of the RDN electoral areas ranging from Nanoose Bay to Deep Bay.
“This is an Oceanside project, not a City of Parksville project,” Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre said, citing increasing issues with homelessness and the need for a regional shelter. “This is a joint, concerted effort. Everyone understands the problem, and everyone understands the problem is getting worse.”
The project faced a March 31 deadline from B.C. Housing to have land approved (in order to receive funding) Lefebvre said. Under the agreement, B.C. Housing will fund construction of a facility and the province will provide operating funds once it is operational.
The facility would be operated and managed by the Island Crisis Care Society.
“We are thankful for this funding and the acquisition of land in Parksville as it will allow us to work in partnership with B.C. Housing to provide access to safe and affordable housing, and to enable us to meet needs of vulnerable people in our community,” said Violet Hayes, co-chair of the task force and executive director of Island Crisis Care Society.
The Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness helped secure the $30,000 grant to develop a building plan. Final costs and design of the structure will not be known until that effort is completed.
“I intend to hold, along with my colleagues at the regional district and the Town of Qualicum Beach, information sessions so people can talk about this,” Lefebvre said. “I imagine some people will not be comfortable with this, but the need is there and this transitional housing will fill that.”
The building is expected to provide a shelter, housing for individuals needing short-term housing before moving on to long-term housing, and affordable housing, said Hayes. Island Crisis Care Society, which has operated emergency shelter services in Nanaimo since 1989, will operate the building and an extensive network of government, service agencies and business partners will provide the services.
The first opportunity for public input will actually come Thursday, March 30, when the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness conducts a Community Forum from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre. Additional public information sessions to get community input on the project will follow, Island Crisis Care Society said in a written release. The deadline to RSVP and receive lunch has passed, but community members are welcome to attend and listen to a presentation by the Task Force.
According to a provincial government news release, “B.C. Housing will work closely with the City of Parksville and Island Crisis Care Society to fully develop the project plans and ensure that appropriate rezoning, funding and consultation is considered and confirmed before construction.
The $700,000 cost for the Corfield Street property broke down as $176,996 to the City of Parksville, $142,785 to the Town of Qualicum Beach and the remainder to local regional district electoral areas. Electoral Area E will contribute $123,661, Area F will contribute $82,722, Area G will pay $108,392 and Area H will contribute $65,443.
“If the building is not constructed, for any reason, the land would revert back to the RDN, it would be sold and the money distributed back to the people,” Lefebvre said.
The project announcement follows a year in which the City of Parksville and Oceanside RCMP saw an increase of homeless people in the summer of 2016, and a winter during which the Parksville extreme weather shelter, which ICCS has been operating for a year, saw up to 14 people a night staying there. The shelter has eight beds.
“We don’t want anyone to be on the street,” said Michelle Authier, operations manager for ICCS. “We take as many as we can manage.”
In Nanaimo, the trend is the same. All the shelters are over capacity, said Authier, though, with more services available, ICCS and other organizations can band together to try and handle the high need.
“And it’s not just people who have high mental health or addictions (who need housing) anymore,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of the older population who can’t afford housing.”