Robin Campbell, director and co-founder of Parksville’s Manna Homeless Society, remains perplexed on why his efforts of “only trying to help” the less-fortunate are being overlooked by the city.
Last Friday, Manna was issued a cease-and-desist order from the City of Parksville, through order from mayor Ed Mayne, to immediately stop providing food and health services to those in need on city property. Manna has been providing folks with minimal food items every Saturday morning for 13 years from a parking lot on Jensen Avenue next to city hall.
The city said the order was issued after they received numerous complaints of garbage and other debris left on the grassy property next to the parking lot after Manna had been there. The city pays $250 each time a contracted hazmat cleanup crew visit the site, which city CAO Debbie Comis said is once a week.
“The cease-and-desist order was issued because [Manna] was distributing product on city property, there was huge messes after every time they left and we had to pay to have it cleaned up,” said Mayne.
Campbell said he called Mayne but has yet to hear back from him, as of Wednesday afternoon. He said he wants to inform the city of exactly what Manna offers and of their “exceptional” cleanup efforts.
“Every Saturday we would clean up, we made a big point of it,” Campbell said. “We’re not the problem, we’re one of the ones that are trying to assist.”
Campbell hopes to speak with Mayne soon but the mayor said he doesn’t see any need to meet with Campbell because the city isn’t going to change its position about Manna distributing products on city land.
“Mr. Campbell can put whatever spin he wants on this, the reality is that we didn’t stop them from distributing foods, we didn’t stop them from doing anything. We just said you can’t do it on our property because that property is a residential property and it’s not fair to the people in the neighbourhood. We’ve received hundreds and hundreds of complaints regarding what [the area] is like after Saturday when they pull their trucks out of there,” Mayne said. “Where it should be distributed is a church or a social services society… not on public lands.”
Campbell believes Manna being blamed for the mess left at the Jensen Avenue lot is unfair and wonders why no one from the city inquired about their services prior to ceasing them.
“If anybody had come to us first from the city and said, ‘hey what’s going on here?’…we would have simply responded, we’re not foolish. There’s never been a problem until this little tent city thing popped up,” Campbell said.
Campbell is not only worried about those in need being hungry without the Manna food service on Saturday, but he also worries about the lack of medical care individuals will receive without the community care mobile.
“To not allow someone the fundamental freedom of health care is beyond me,” he said.
Until a more permanent location can be sorted out, the community care mobile, run by nurse practitioners and provides citizens with basic health and hygiene products, will run out of the Salvation Army parking lot on Wednesdays only.
“We don’t have a location for Saturdays and that’s the most important one,” Campbell said. “We would really like to have a safe accessible site from the city to put our community care mobile. That way you have the nurse practitioners to feel safe and the people who come to it can feel safe.”
Homeless advocates and other groups in the community have told The NEWS they plan to provide food for those in need on Saturday, in the absence of Manna’s services.