There were plenty of answers provided during an informational open house on a proposed supportive housing and shelter project in Parksville Tuesday afternoon.
But that wasn’t enough to sway critics of the planned development at 222 Corfield St.
More than 200 residents turned out for the open house, hosted by BC Housing, Island Crisis Care Centre and City of Parksville staff March 20 at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre.
They were shown graphic posters describing preliminary building plans, proposed services, homeless statistics and other information, each staffed by members of BC Housing, ICCS, the Oceanside Homelessness Task Force or city staff to answer questions.
“This has been a tremendous turnout today; we’re really pleased,” BC Housing’s regional director for Vancouver Island, Heidi Hartman, said midway through the four-hour drop-in event.
“There’s been a variety of responses; there have been some in support and a lot of folks who have a lot of questions. This has been a great opportunity to give people the information they need to make an informed decision and give them some food for thought.”
Violet Hayes, executive director of ICCS, said some misconceptions about the nature and operation of the housing project were cleared up. The facility will provide residential, rental housing in a mix of studio and one-bedroom apartments. It is not a drop-in centre where people will come and go for free meals or to “hang out.”
An associated extreme-weather shelter would be run in the same manner as the current shelter.
The supportive housing development will also be staffed 24/7 by ICCS, much as its Hirst House crisis stabilization centre, which has operated for 13 years within two blocks of the Corfield Street site.
The facility will offer residents services ranging from hot meals, showers and laundry to health care referrals, outreach worker assistance, peer and low-barrier employment assistance and connection to local community services.
Still, residents who live nearby believe the Corfield Street property, in Parksville’s downtown core, is the wrong place for the development.
John Bishop, who lives on nearby Bagshaw Street, canvassed the area with a neighbour and the two delivered a petition bearing 200 signatures of people opposing the project to Parksville city council at its March 19 meeting. Adam Fras delivered a separate petition to council with 120 signatures, then returned to gather more at the entrance to PCCC during Tuesday’s open house.
“We’re asking the mayor and council to choose a more suitable location to make this happen, instead of our downtown community,” said Fras. “Those (residents) going through a vulnerable time in their lives need a bit of privacy so that they’re not stepping out into the downtown where it’s noisy and busy and they’re being watched by other people.
“Let’s find ways to support people, absolutely. But lets do it in a way we can then look back and say, ‘Look what Parksville can do’ and showcase how every community can find a way to support the vulnerable people in their communities.”
Bishop was more concerned about the housing project creating a draw for transients and criminal elements and said it will ruin tourism in the area, despite the assurances of BC Housing and ICCS staff.
“People need help, absolutely,” said Bishop. “But not the people who have chosen to disregard the law, who have chosen to break into our homes.”
Parksville council has initiated the zoning and land-use amendment process to allow for the social housing and shelter project, a process that will include a statutory public meeting.
Comment cards were issued to those who attended. Responses will be collected and analyzed by BC Housing, which will then provide a report to the City of Parksville, city communications director Deb Tardiff said.
“That report will help inform council’s decision,” she said.