The City of Parksville is doing the right thing by attempting to get out front of the issue of homeless encampments in the city.
The devil, as always, is in the details.
It could be said the city is actually way behind the issue. There are currently camps in wooded areas both inside and just outside the city limits — we’ve visited them. They have been there for years, but there is a question about whether they are strictly for homeless people or distribution/production/staging areas for drug dealing.
If the Oceanside RCMP is aware of these camps, or have done anything about them, their members have not communicated anything about them to the public or media.
What the city is currently trying to address relates to the battles we’ve seen in the last year in places like Abbotsford, Vancouver and Victoria. The Supreme Court ruled people have a right to the security of the person, which essentially means safe housing.
A court ruling is expected today in Victoria regarding that city’s tent city on provincial courthouse land. The provincial government argued it has housing for all in the tent city, which fulfills the Supreme Court conditions. The campers don’t like the housing options, or want to make a larger point about poverty, so they have refused to move.
What would happen if 50 people showed up with tents on city-owned land in Parksville? It’s not like the city could say it has safe housing for them. If we read the Supreme Court ruling correctly, that means the city could not evict people from a tent city that springs up on, say, the Jensen Avenue/Alberni Highway land across from the fire hall.
So, we are back to where we were a year ago, the issue of facilities for the homeless of Parksville Qualicum Beach. It’s not an issue the city and its property owners can resolve. It’s a provincial government issue. Housing Minister Rich Coleman may be able to say he has housing for those in Victoria, but what about communities that are not in earshot of his office in the Legislature?
There are solutions. The support team is in place in Parksville. These professionals have adopted the respected Housing First mantra. A good first step — our suggestion, not theirs — would be what we call 10-5-out. That’s 10 shelter beds where people can transition to five supportive housing units and then out to their own place as they become active members of the taxpaying, working class and no longer a drain on the provincial budget.
It’s up to Coleman and his fellow cabinet minister, Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell, to show they care about homelessness issues outside the provincial capital.
— Editorial by John Harding