Although St. Anne’s Church has stepped up and offered a warm place to sleep for those in need, Rev. Christine Muise emphasized it’s a temporary solution to a pressing problem — they’re not providing a cold-weather shelter.
Muise, who is the Priest Associate for St. Anne’s, said Parksville Qualicum Beach still needs to find a permanent plan for a cold-weather shelter, but that St.Anne’s will offer ‘pray and stay’ vigils nightly until that happens, provided they have people to help them do so.
The vigils have been happening since Dec.6, with people showing up to eat and rest until 7:30 a.m. Muise said she saw the cold-weather solution not being able to happen quickly enough.
“So we’re not a temporary shelter. In celebration of my 11 years of ordination which was on Dec., 6, we decided to have a vigil. It’s a pray and stay. And so we got together, we sang some songs, shared some food,” she said. “Some folks stayed for a couple hours, and some people stayed for longer.”
Robin Campbell, director of Manna Homeless Society, said although the vigil is a significant help to people affected by homelessness in the region, a cold-weather shelter solution needs to happen soon.
“It’s flawed in so many ways, but it’s the best thing we got,” said Campbell. “At least they’re trying.”
In mid-November, B.C. Housing said they were working with community organizations to find a shelter model for the area.
Rather than having a dedicated cold-weather shelter, different places would share the duties.
People would be picked up at a central location, where transportation provided by BC Housing would take them to the shelter location for the night.
Campbell said this structure is problematic for a lot of residents due to the lack of stability, and that the area will need to come up with a dedicated shelter next year regardless of what happens this winter.
“The churches are only going to do it for this year, they made it clear that it’s a one-time thing,” said Campbell.
In the spring, the City of Parksville secured full control over the use of what is now supportive housing complex Orca Place by purchasing it for $700,000 and repaying a $492,400 grant-in-aid to the Regional District of Nanaimo.
With the purchase, the housing facility no longer required an eight-bed cold-weather shelter, which was a requirement of the Regional District of Nanaimo.
However, Deb Tardiff, manager of communications for Parksville, re-iterated to the NEWS that the city isn’t involved in finding a cold-weather solution — that the onus falls completely on B.C. housing.
“We’re not involved with that at all,” said Tardiff.
BC Housing is expected to provide an update this week about the plan for a cold-weather shelter.