In the absence of a dedicated indoor cold-weather shelter, a Parksville woman looks to help those left out in the cold.
On Sunday, Feb. 14, Kelly Morris created a cold-weather camp in the back parking lot of St. Anne’s church on Church Road.
Since there are currently no cold-weather shelters in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region, Morris said she would have to make due with warm tents.
“There’s no doors open and these people are literally freezing,” she said. “It’s not OK for us to sit back and watch.”
Morris plans on keeping the camp accessible until significant efforts are made to help the vulnerable population and “something” opens up.
As of Tuesday, Feb. 16, though there are currently only two tents in the camp and only one camper at the St. Anne’s location, Morris anticipates the camp getting larger, as people bring their own tents.
She said that with the supplies they have, they can provide shelter for eight people.
Morris said she chose St. Anne’s parking lot “because nobody can move them from the church.”
“That’s the only place they can actually go for any kind of sanctuary.”
She said when people experiencing homelessness set up camp within the city in an area that allows for overnight camping, such as Mark’s Nature Park, city staff will ask them to pack up and take what they can carry the next morning.
A lot of their belongings are left behind, such as winter clothing and other winter essentials, she said.
“We’re really hoping that something will give. I’m pretty sure there’s going to be some doors opening up. I’m hoping.”
Rev. Christine Muise, the Priest Associate for St. Anne’s and a founding member of OHEART (a local organization trying to find a shelter solution in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region), believes the campers would be far better placed in a municipal building but understands that “these people have nowhere else to go.”
Located in the parking lot, tucked behind the 127-year-old wood church, are portable toilets where campers can “as human beings, use the bathroom.”
“I’m not in a position where I can, right now, let them go find somewhere else because they’ve, as far as I know, tried other places. And there’s no actual spots within the community that they could safely sleep or go to the bathroom,” said Muise.