With chillier winter conditions setting in, a Parksville-area pastor is concerned about the lack of a permanent cold-weather shelter for people who have nowhere else to stay.
Joseph Dutko, co-lead pastor at Oceanside Community Church, wrote to local government officials about his concerns, but has not yet received an official response, although he did speak briefly with a Parksville city councillor.
“Everyone’s kind of waiting on everybody else a little bit, and it’s kind of hard to tell who needs to take the first step,” Dutko said. “Whether it’s BC Housing or the city or somebody else. So I think that’s what everybody is trying to figure out.”
Oceanside Community Church hosted a shelter last winter from Dec. 27 to Jan. 3, which ended up being the coldest and snowiest stretch of the season, Dutko added.
Hosting a shelter for an extended period of time is difficult for churches because space tends to be used for numerous church and community programs.
He said if nothing else can be found, the church is open to hosting a shelter around the same time this winter.
“What’s needed is a permanent solution because every year we go through the same thing, where we’re trying to scramble to find a cold-weather shelter,” Dutko said.
A permanent location will better serve the people who need a place to stay, he added. Moving from location to location makes it difficult for volunteers and for people to keep track of where they can go for shelter.
“It’s not like there’s some email list you can just send out to people,” Dutko said. “Some of it’s word of mouth, some of it’s literally just some amazing people in the community who go around picking people up and give them rides and take them to the shelter. So, when you’re moving it around, transportation becomes a problem, communication becomes a problem.”
Each time the shelter’s location changes, issues like insurance must be figured out and volunteers need to move all the beds and supplies. Additionally, Oceanside Community Church is not in a central location close to other amenities and there is no bus service.
“This can be a matter of life and death for some people,” Dutko said. “We need to figure out a way to all work together on this so that we don’t face the same issue year after year.”