Build it … or lose it

Ask residents if Parksville and the surrounding area has a problem with homelessness, and you’re likely to get an affirmative response in a unified voice.

Ask for a solution to the issue, though, and suddenly it’s all Tower of Babel.

The Parksville Qualicum Beach region has been presented with a unique opportunity to take a key step in addressing the greatest barrier faced by the homeless — namely, the lack of a home.

The province, through BC Housing, has committed $6.9 million in funding to construct 52 units of rental housing and an extreme weather shelter on Corfield Street. Just as importantly, it has also committed ongoing operational funding that will allow the Island Crisis Care Society to staff the facility around the clock.

That funding, and the various support services that go with it, can all go away in a heartbeat if the residents of the region reject it now.

Many people have spoken out against the development this week, both at Parksville’s council meeting on Monday and during an open house hosted by BC Housing and ICCS staff Tuesday. Some opponents seemed to express surprise at the “sudden” approval of the facility, even though the land was purchased for the express purpose nearly a year ago.

This didn’t happen overnight. The Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness and its associated members, including ICCS, the Society of Organized Services, Forward House and others, have been working for years toward a solution for the crisis.

During those years they have also been taking steps to assist at-risk and homeless individuals through a range of services, including finding housing and employment.

Those who live near the proposed site have a right to be concerned about the project and what it might mean to the neighbourhood.

But blanket assertions that it will result in an influx of criminally inclined transients are unfounded. We’ve already got our own homeless — ranging from those who need crisis stabilization to those who simply need a safe place to lay their heads and who are otherwise perfectly capable of working and contributing to our communities.

Parksville council has started the zoning amendment process for this development and will hold a public meeting before final approval can be granted.

Rejection of the proposed supportive housing project will not result in a reduction in property crime and people sleeping in the doorways of downtown businesses.

But it will leave a long-term solution out in the cold.

— Parksville Qualicum Beach News

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