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, an extreme weather 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.
"We need a place to run the shelter for this winter," said Sarah Poole, the task force's homelessness co-ordinator. "If we don't find an answer for the extreme weather shelter there's going to be a lot of people who who don't have somewhere to go this winter."
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 the task force's co-chair, Violet Hayes, who is also the executive director of the Island Crisis Care Society.
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.
However, nothing like that can happen — funding, change of designation — without a facility. Anyone who can help with this can call Hayes at 778-441-4227 or e-mail email@example.com.
The task force members also said this week they submitted a report to B.C. Housing in June detailing what the task force would like to see built in Parksville for the homeless and to provide affordable housing.
The task force received $10,000 in funding from the province three months ago to put together the plan. Task force members said this week there’s nothing in the plan that hasn’t been discussed for months or years. The plan does not provide any drawings, operational budget details or location for a facility.
As they told city council in May, the task force would like to see a building with 30 affordable housing units, shelter beds and support staff.
“It starts with the city stepping up and providing us with some land,” task force member Sharon Welch told council in May.
That hasn’t happened yet, Poole and Hayes said this week. Without the land from the city, it’s not possible to provide B.C. Housing with a layout of any proposed facility, or any other operational details, they said.
Poole said she has been told the city has identified parcels of land and staff is currently putting together reports on their suitability. Did she think the city would have had this work done by now?
“We were hoping so,” said Poole. “We provided them with possibilities. As of yet that piece of land hasn’t been identified. When it is, we will be able to get into the specifics of the building.”
Back in May, task force members said they would like to see a facility that’s three-four storeys that includes the following: 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.