I was in attendance at the April 4 city council meeting in support of the efforts of the Friends of Foster Park. Foster Park had been mentioned in The NEWS recently as a possible location for the homeless to set up camps, and given the nature and use of the park, this felt to me like an inappropriate place for them to do so.
Foster Park is well used by the community and by children of pre-school age. My objection to the use of Foster Park though is not an indication of any intolerance to the homeless in our town. Rather I see this as an opportunity to raise the issue of finding permanent solutions for homeless people who live among us.
For me, the issue of overnight camping in parks is inextricably linked to the greater issue of homelessness in general. This seems to be the perfect time to address the two issues rather than have the specific issue of homelessness kicked further down the road. I was struck by the clarity of Coun. Leanne Salter’s position and motions — I found her opinions both rational and compassionate for everyone involved.
I was equally disheartened by the position of Mayor Marc Lefebvre, who said we didn’t have a homelessness problem in Parksville. I beg to differ. My husband and I, fairly new residents to Parksville, attended a Homelessness Task Force meeting in the fall of 2015 and experts have the count at 100. Even if the count was five people, this would be a tragedy that we would want to respond to. Parksville needs to provide shelter for those who have so little, who often struggle with mental health issues, and who are too often seen as disposable people, authors of their own misfortunes.
The meeting April 4 revealed what seemed to me to be a lack of passion or desire to creatively address the issue by most elected officials. It would have been so uplifting to leave the meeting knowing that our decision makers were as motivated in finding a solution as those in attendance were. But the meeting also gave me hope. Afterward, I had conversations with people who felt as I did — let’s get this issue solved. There’s energy and talent in the community for this so let’s move forward together.