B.C. Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Selina Robinson announces $6.9 million in provincial funding for approximately 50 supportive housing units in Parksville at 222 Corfield St. South. — Adam Kveton Photo

Parksville-Qualicum MLA questions minister over homeless housing project

Stilwell seeks clarification in response to community opposition

Provincial government funding of a supportive housing project in Parksville was not redirected from a failed bid for a similar project in Nanaimo, said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

“The decision to provide Parksville with this resource was made completely independent of what was happening anywhere else on the Island,” Robinson said in response to a question from Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell in the B.C. Legislature Tuesday morning, April 24. “Communities came and asked to be considered for this opportunity, and Parksville was on the list. They’re completely unrelated.”

Stilwell approached Robinson for clarity and to try to dispel some of the “myths” arising from the announcement in March of the 52-unit, supportive housing project in Parksville. On Tuesday afternoon, Stilwell shared a tweet on her discussion with Robinson, including a link to a video of their question-and-answer session.

Stilwell noted the City of Parksville, Regional District of Nanaimo, Town of Qualicum Beach, Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness and Society of Organized Services have been working to establish housing for people who are vulnerable and at risk of homelessness.

“Of course, with these projects sometimes there comes conflict, and there are people opposing this project, which we are now seeing in our community,” Stilwell told Robinson. “I wanted to come and ask a few questions to verify, for the record, and (dispel) some of the myths that are out there.”

Opposition to the supportive housing project began to grow shortly after Robinson came to Parksville on March 9 to announce $6.9 million in funding for the project, to be built at 222 Corfield St. That opposition has coalesced around a group that has established a website, www.parksvilleshelter.com, and which hosted a public info session on April 13 that organizers say drew more than 250 people.

One of the organizers, Adam Fras, has been circulating a petition in the community since mid-March, which he says now has more than 1,000 signatures seeking to prevent the establishment of the shelter at the Corfield Street location.

“I have been part of a community where there’s been vociferous concern about having homeless people in their communities,” said Robinson. “I’ve had one around the corner from my house in Coquitlam, and there was certainly some opposition. And that was a very successful program that moved people into housing.”

Robinson said the major difference between the proposed Corfield project and other developments opened under previous governments in B.C. is the 24/7 staffing that will be paid through BC Housing.

“We are putting in 24-7 supports; that has not been the case historically,” Robinson said in response to Stilwell’s inquiry. “Because we recognize that people need the kind of supports that wrap around. We’re investing significantly to make sure not only that people are housed, but that they have services they can rely on.”

Final approval will require a rezoning amendment bylaw, which has not yet come before Parksville council. Should council approve first reading of such a bylaw, it would then schedule a public hearing on the project.

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