Qualicum Beach council has found a way to contribute to local cold-weather shelter efforts by paying a third of insurance costs incurred by faith-based organizations that are helping to
provide the service.
Scott Harrison, a Qualicum Beach councilor, said if nothing else, it’s a token gesture of support from the council.
“When they came together there was a bit of a sense of frustration, they felt like they were being essentially forced to do this on their own,” he said. “Even though the community has stepped up recently, from a lot of different corners, I still think it’s important to have local government at least making a small contribution.”
Seven churches in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area will provide cold-weather shelters. Because those churches are providing different programming with the cold-weather shelters, there’s a requirement for churches to endorse their insurance policies to provide the service.
“Now it’s because the churches are all doing it themselves, you have to make an endorsement of your policy and it is viewed as a ‘risk’ and you don’t want to invalidate your insurance when there is activity happening that is different,” he said.
Harrison said he isn’t sure exactly how much it will cost the council at this point.
“The conversations I had with the church would be that it wouldn’t be a significant amount of money,” he said.
Looking forward, Harrison said he’s interested in starting a conversation about a permanent cold-weather shelter for next season.
“I think we need to look at what are the actual impacts, and they’re perhaps less than what we might be concerned about, but there aren’t none, there are some,” he said.
“So we have to be cognizant of the two sides, but I do hope we avoid a situation where we’re pretending we can interminably say it’s someone else’s responsibility.”
When asked if Parksville would consider doing something similar, Mayor Ed Mayne said Parksville already contributed $700,000 to purchase land for Orca Place.
“Homelessness is the responsibility of the province and they should be covering the ongoing operational costs. The churches should not be out of pocket to cover costs for what the province should be paying for,” said Mayne in an email. “By municipalities covering ongoing operational costs they are accepting provincial downloads.”
The Regional District of Nanaimo responded by saying that they’d be open to hearing more about contributing to insurance costs.
“The RDN board offers a grant program, which is geared to helping not-for-profit organizations to receive financial assistance from the board. We would welcome an application from this organization,” said engagement co-ordinator Lisa Moilanen.