OPINION: Cold-weather shelter solution needs to be found for Parksville Qualicum Beach

Will our community leaders step up this time?

We can’t have a repeat of last winter.

Though September is barely upon us and the temperatures remain balmy and pleasant, the cold is just around the corner.

And Parksville Qualicum Beach still has no dedicated cold-weather shelter.

Rev. Christine Muise continues to hope a solution will be found.

As she points out in our story this week the issue has not gone away.

“I know there’s a lot of struggle with folks that have nowhere to stay, and the reality is they really have nowhere to stay and nowhere to go and nowhere to even go to the bathroom still,” she said.

That’s unacceptable. And we need our leaders to step up, quit passing the buck and leaving Muise and her group to pick up the pieces.

Muise is a founding member of OHEART, a group of nine Parksville Qualicum Beach area churches that worked with BC Housing to originally find a shelter solution. They opened St. Anne’s church as a shelter in December and had to close its doors in March due to COVID-19 concerns.

But last winter’s saga was something none of our political leaders should be proud of.

We actually had a story that started like this: ‘A group of homeless people in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area are set to begin camping in a graveyard.’

Eighteen people affected by homelessness were to camp at night at the graveyard between St. Anne’s and St. Edmund’s church in Parksville — not far from where many of them slept for months.

That didn’t last long after an outcry (if only there was as much reaction to people having to actually sleep out in the cold), but was still not a good look for our communities.

“We continue to operate the COVID response and that’s been extended until the end of September,” she said. “And OHEART is actively looking at possible capacity for a shelter for this coming cold-weather season, so we’re actively engaged in seeking and finding. So, we’re working on it.”

Other temporary solutions have been tried –people were put up in hotels, provided by BC Housing, but Muise said at the time that isn’t an option that works for everyone — many need a staffed shelter, like they had before. Muise remains hopeful a shelter solution will be found in time for winter.

“I’ll always be optimistic and my hope is that there’s a will on everyone involved to really just try and find that place and space so that we can have something in place as it gets colder out,” she said.

Will our community leaders step up this time?

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