People experiencing homelessness in the Parksville area will be able to temporarily use shower facilities at Orca Place.
City council carried a motion, by Coun. Mary Beil, to approve use of the shower facilities in the public area of Orca Place on Tuesdays and Fridays, between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. from Dec. 6, 2022 to Jan. 6, 2023.
The temporary measure is meant to fill the gap in shower services while Society of Organized Services (SOS) closes the program over the holiday season to accommodate its Caring for Community at Christmas program.
“They need to use the space around that area to help with organizing their toy shop and other programs that they’re doing,” Beil said. “In previous years there were opportunities for individuals to access the showers at Ravensong pool or at the Catholic church and neither of those options are available this year.”
She added Island Crisis Care Society (ICCS) is able to accommodate, with assistance from Island Mental Health, the staffing needs. There is no plan to expand the service or to extend it beyond the Dec. 6 to Jan. 6 time period, according to Beil.
Orca Place is a 52-unit apartment building, for people who have experienced housing and health challenges, built by BC Housing on land owned by the City of Parksville.
The plan calls for showers with a privacy screening. Beil said once a person has finished their shower, they are expected to leave and not linger in the area, which will be monitored by staff. No other amenities, such as food or a warming shelter, will be provided.
Beil clarified the program is completely separate from the residents of Orca Place.
“I wish that the previous council had set up some cold-weather facilities, whether it’s showers or something else,” said Coun. Sean Wood. “We’re getting deluged with emails that people care about the people who are out there in the cold.”
Coun. Adam Fras raised a concern that the decision to approve the use of the shower facilities was made prior to the council meeting. He read from an email, sent by Mayor Doug O’Brien, that Fras said indicated the city had agreed to allow the use of the showers.
“How is it that you’ve already agreed to allowing them to operate the showers, this is, as I mentioned, a week ago, Nov. 28?” Fras said. “Ahead of council having a chance to discuss it or vote on it.”
O’Brien asked Fras why he had shared an email directed only to council members.
Fras said he is concerned the issue had not gone before Orca Place’s community advisory committee.
“I know because members of that community advisory committee have reached out to me, after seeing this notice of motion,” he said. “And are wondering why they haven’t had a chance to provide input and ask questions on it.”
O’Brien said Fras was absent during orientation meetings where information was shared “that we had talked to ICCS regarding their co-operation and consideration of the advisory committee that you’re speaking of. If you had attended those meetings you would have understood that they have done exactly what you asked.”
Fras made a motion that the item be referred to the community advisory committee for Orca Place.
The motion did not receive a seconder, so council did not vote on it.
Beil said ICCS members had hoped to be a delegation at council’s last meeting, but because there were already three delegations signed up, were not able to present.
“I have not been part of any vote, any decision, about this ahead of us making the decision and making the vote on this motion tonight,” Beil said. “I’d just like to make that very, very clear.”
At council’s Nov. 21 regular meeting, Beil provided notice she would introduce the motion to council’s Dec. 5 meeting.
Beil’s motion was carried with Fras opposed.