Although the City of Parksville has ordered Manna Homeless Society to cease helping the less fortunate on the city’s Jensen Avenue West property, others showed up to take their place Saturday morning (Nov. 24).
Individuals and church groups began setting up at about 9 a.m., approximately when the Manna van used to arrive to provide food, clothing and healthcare items.
Kelly, a former addict who’s now an advocate for addictions solutions and the homeless (and doesn’t want her last name used), set up a table of food to dish out, not far from where some homeless camp out under a tree in tents at the Jensen Avenue West lot between city hall and the city’s fire hall.
Volunteers with Knox United Church, Catholic Church of the Ascension and Parksville Fellowship Baptist Church and others arrived to hand out sandwiches, clothing and kind words for those in need, whether they are homeless or not.
Individuals like former Qualicum Beach Coun. Neil Horner and Lissa Alexander brought donated coffee to give out, as they have for many years.
“It’s a total blessing,” said David, a homeless man living in Parksville for years, as he ate the breakfast provided.
“I’ve been coming here ever since they started,” he added, though he noted that he doesn’t stay at the park — he sleeps at a local shelter.
As volunteers shared what they had with the needy (in some cases including each other, some bringing what they had to share while partaking of what others brought), one of the homeless people tenting at the site, Zack Canning, gathered up refuse from the camp into a garbage bag. He said someone staying there had had some trouble the night before and had left the camp in a mess.
“We’re disappointed that Manna is not on-site with us,” said Elaine Dauncey, a Knox church volunteer. She and Jan Lucas explained that Knox has been supporting Manna for years.
“Manna and people like us are being part of the solution,” said Kevan Ford, a local volunteer. “We are here as a positive, stabilizing force… contributing to the better Parksville.”
He added that Manna cleans up after itself and others.
“I think it’s heartless and wrong,” said Horner of the city’s cease-and-desist order. “It’s not Manna that’s making the mess.”
“They’re not going to make the homeless go away,” he said of council’s actions. “They’re just going to increase their misery.”
It would be nice to see the city work with Manna, said Alexander.
Kirk Oates, former Parksville councillor and a candidate for mayor in the October election, was passing by walking his dog this morning.
“It came as a surprise to me that the number of comments escalated to council,” he said of Mayor Ed Mayne’s statement that the city has received “hundreds and hundreds of complaints regarding what (the Jensen Ave site) is like after Saturday when they (Manna) pull their trucks out of there.”
Oates said that, while he was in office, the city was not receiving hundreds of complaints, and that there were more comments sent to the city in support of Manna’s efforts.
Of the group of people who arrived Saturday morning to provide support in Manna’s place, Oates said, “But for human kindness, it would be a terrible world.”
A Parksville bylaw officer later arrived to the site and spoke with Canning and several volunteers as the morning gathering was wrapping up.