Elaine Thompson speaking at the Homeless in Oceanside - A Community Forum on Thursday, March 30. She wanted to know what could be done to help the homeless in the two years leading up to the completion of the new affordable housing facility on Corfield Street. Lauren Collins photo

VIDEO: A huge increase in visible homeless in Parksville Qualicum Beach

OTFH hosted forum on homelessness in Parksville

Due to the colder-than-normal winter of 2016-17, Sharon Welch said the extreme weather shelter was open more than ever before in its six-year history.

For this past season, the extreme weather shelter had 841 males attend, 153 females attend, including 23 peope under the age of 19. This represented 73 unique individuals, she said.

Welch, co-chair of the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness (OTFH) and executive director of Forward House, said in that time OTFH has done two point-in-time counts (one in 2011 and one in 2013) and it counted about 66-68 individuals who were homeless at the time.

“The challenge with a point-in-time count is you’re looking for homeless individuals who, by nature, are hidden individuals in the population,” Welch said. “What we’ve seen since that time is a huge increase in the number of visible homeless in our community, so folks that are sleeping in doorways or behind buildings or on park benches.”

The Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness held Homeless in Oceanside — A Community Forum on Thursday (March 30) at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre. The forum covered the state of homelessness in the community, what the task force is working on and where it plans to go.

There was also a roundtable discussion with attendees who brainstormed ideas on housing, services and transportation.

Story continues below

The forum was attended by representatives from Parksville and Qualicum Beach councils, the Regional District of Nanaimo board, School District 69 (Qualicum) board and provincial government officials as well as MLA candidates.

During a question-and-answer period, school board trustee Elaine Young said she knows from her work at Springwood Elementary School that there are families who are homeless.

“People who are homeless are not necessarily addicted or involved in crime or anything like that. They live among us. The vacancy rates here are so low that anyone who’s renting could be homeless at any point,” said Young, adding that she wanted to know what the district could do to help.

Welch suggested the school district gather information and possibly refer the families to the Housing Outreach Support Team (HOST). Welch said between the SOS homeless prevention program and HOST, they’ve housed 30 individuals since 2015 and 83 per cent are still in the house.

“That is at a time when we’ve had close to a zero occupancy rate in the area,” she said. “The problem now is we’re very quickly running out of housing and we are actually looking at waitlists now for people that are trying to find somewhere to go.”

Welch said the proposed new affordable housing located at 222 Corfield St., for which the OTFH helped to secure a $30,000 grant to develop a building plan, would help with some of those needs, although it won’t be finished for about two years.

The beauty of this housing project, again, is we’re not putting a roof over people’s head and walking away and saying, ‘Good, the work’s all done. Let’s move on’ because the reality is we know some of the individuals that will go into this housing will need a lot of support,” Welch said.

Elaine Thompson wanted to know what could be done in the meantime to help the homeless while the facility is constructed.

“Anyone who’s ever been tenting, knows that their sleeping bags are soaked and wet, everything is soggy, you just can’t warm in the night because everything is totally drenched with the dew,” said Thompson.

She asked if there was any way to get a drop-in centre or open a room somewhere where people could come in, have a cup of coffee and dry out before going back to their tent.

Welch said OTFH has spoken with B.C. Housing about what they can do moving forward, but she also said they want to create a cold weather shelter which would be open every night between October and March.

Renate Sutherland, OTFH co-chair and executive director of the SOS, said there are always opportunities to look at what else they can do.

“Perhaps one of the things we need to do is look at how can we create some day programming,” Sutherland said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jennifer Bate, executive director of Parksville’s McMillan Arts Centre, visits the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PQBeat: A chat with Jennifer Bate of Parksville’s McMillan Arts Centre

Podcast: Discussion includes COVID-19 issues, singing in a rock band and more

(File photo)
Crime report: PQB thieves pilfer licence plates, televisions

Oceanside RCMP received a total of 308 complaints in one-week period

VIU Mariners coach Larry Stefanek. (Black Press File Photo)
Parksville soccer coach Stefanek earns special national certification

VIU Mariners head coach one of 30 in Canada to complete program

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

A screenshot from the virtual all-candidates meeting on Monday, Oct. 19 hosted by the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce. (SCREENSHOT)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Mid Island-Pacific Rim candidates weigh in on forestry, tourism, LNG

For the first time ever, Alberni Valley Chamber hosted a virtual all-candidates’ meeting

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Michael Leighton, who is wanted on 11 warrants on Vancouver Island and is a suspect in a recent break, enter and theft in Nanaimo. (Photos submitted)
RCMP looking for break-and-enter suspect with 11 warrants on the Island

Nanaimo RCMP say Michael Leighton a suspect in theft of pistol and $40,000 worth of coins

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

Most Read