Community organizations have a plan to change the way the region’s homeless are served and it includes the use of a spacious building right next to the SOS in downtown Parksville.
Representatives of the Parksville and District Association for Community Living (PDACL), the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness and the Island Crisis Care Society gave city council a look at their plans on Monday night and asked for forgiveness of the $2,500 fee they will have to pay to start the re-zoning process. PDACL recently purchased the building on Hirst Street beside the SOS that operated as a health unit until Island Health consolidated most of its services in the region into the Oceanside Health Centre. PDACL’s Barb Read explained Monday night the organization plans to allow the Crisis Care Society and task force to use the building for programs, shelter beds and transitional housing.
“We think it’s a great opportunity to have a place where people can come and we can help them on their feet and move forward,” said the Crisis Care Society’s Violet Hayes, who is also a member of the homelessness task force.
The plan is to provide 10 shelter beds and four-five transitional rooms for those waiting to get housing in what is said to be the community with the lowest vacancy rate in the province.
Currently, an extreme weather shelter is available for homeless people from Nov. 1-March 31 in the Salvation Army Church about two blocks away from PDACL’s new building, but it’s only open on certain nights according to the severity of the weather. This new shelter, said task force co-ordinator Sarah Poole, would have 10 beds and be open year-round regardless of the weather. The opening of this facility would close the extreme weather shelter, but the re-zoning process might take some time, so “it’s likely that (the extreme weather shelter) will still be in place (for the upcoming winter),” Poole said in an interview.
By legislation, council is not allowed to waive the fee for a re-zoning application. On Monday, council did vote unanimously to give the group, through a grant-in-aid, the $2,500 needed to file the application.
The re-zoning will come before council at a future date, and it was unclear Monday if the city has any current zoning on its books for this type of facility. During the re-zoning process, it’s mandatory to have a public hearing and council suggested the groups also host an open house to inform the public about their plans.
In other news from council’s meeting Monday night:
• Council authorized staff to award a contract worth $337,817 to Knappet Industries — the same company doing millions of dollars of Temple Street upgrades — for water main replacement and paving on Ermineskin Avenue.
• Coun. Al Greir introduced a motion asking staff to provide more information, before it hits the agenda, about why certain items are forced behind closed doors, or in camera. His motion also asked that all members of council be present for in camera meetings and that decisions made in camera eventually be made public.
Greir preamble, and comments from other councillors on the motion, made mention of editorials in The NEWS about this council’s recent number of in camera meetings.
“If this council wants transparency, then we have a responsibility to the public for full disclosure,” said Greir. “There have been occurrences that I feel that some of the discussions we have had did not have to be in camera.”
Mayor Marc Lefebvre said items that are discussed behind closed doors are there because provincial legislation allows it and he said “I don’t go in camera lightly.”
Greir’s motion was defeated 6-1.