Rev. Christine Muise is hoping the Parksville Qualicum Beach area will have a cold-weather shelter this winter.
“I know there’s a lot of struggle with folks that have nowhere to stay, and the reality is they really have nowhere to stay and nowhere to go and nowhere to even go to the bathroom still,” she said. “So the issue has not gone away.”
Muise is a founding member of OHEART, a group of nine Parksville Qualicum Beach area churches that worked with BC Housing to originally find a shelter solution. They opened St. Anne’s church as a shelter in December and had to close its doors in March due to COVID-19 concerns.
“We continue to operate the COVID response and that’s been extended until the end of September,” she said. “And OHEART is actively looking at possible capacity for a shelter for this coming cold-weather season, so we’re actively engaged in seeking and finding. So, we’re working on it.”
Although it’s August, Muise said the cold weather is coming soon enough. Some people affected by homelessness in the area have been housed in hotels, but she said there are many who still require a staffed shelter.
It was already tough to find a shelter solution in the area without COVID. Now, the location needs to allow for enough distance between people, which is partly why St. Anne’s had to close.
“There’s four more layers on everything with COVID, which is alright, it just means we have to have a plan [in place] where a group of people could be together, but safety and in a spacious enough space, but then you also have to have a contingency plan in place for people who might have to isolate,” she said.
Ultimately, Muise said she remains hopeful that they’ll be able to find a shelter solution in time for winter.
“I’ll always be optimistic and my hope is that there’s a will on everyone involved to really just try and find that place and space so that we can have something in place as it gets colder out,” she said.