Parksville Mayor Ed Mayne hopes for a “win-win” scenario from the provincial government, regarding the recent acquisition of 25 temporary BC Housing rooms at the Vancouver Island Parksville (VIP) Motel.
In October, a press release announced BC Housing had partnered with the Oceanside Homelessness Ecumenical Advocacy Response Team Society (OHEARTS) to open shelter spaces in the region for vulnerable people during winter months.
Mayne said he is not against the idea of housing people experiencing homelessness but is frustrated by the lack of communication.
“They always seem to come back to Parksville instead of going to other areas to look,” he said. “We’re not providing anything different than what the Town of Qualicum Beach can… We don’t have anymore services than anybody else.”
Since the temporary shelter location (414 Island Hwy W) is zoned as tourist commercial, Mayne said the shelter is currently in contravention of the city’s zoning bylaws and the city has notified BC Housing and asked them to rectify the non-compliance.
Mayne said he was advised BC Housing is looking to acquire a temporary-use permit, which would have to go through council for approval.
The provincial government does have paramountcy over municipal governments and can overrule.
“If I’m going to take this and try to convince the people of Parksville, and to the council, then they’ve got to be helping us out in some other areas, too. At least have a win-win scenario in this… We have three projects that we’re talking to them about now. Let’s look at (them) funding those projects,” he said.
The earliest council meeting the temporary-use permit could be discussed is the one scheduled for mid-January.
October’s press release stated the temporary shelters would be in place until the end of March. Mayne said it may go beyond that time frame.
“We’re not going to let go of this until it’s settled,” he said.
In an email to PQB News, a communications advisor with BC Housing stated the information regarding how long the rooms will be available is currently confidential. The email stated it is the province and BC Housing’s shared goal to ensure that all people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness in Parksville have a warm and safe place to stay, especially during the cold and wet winter months.
“After a fire in October left the previous shelter in the community, the Travelodge Hotel, uninhabitable, BC Housing reached out to other facilities throughout the (Parksville Qualicum Beach) area. We are grateful that the VIP leased 25 rooms to provide temporary spaces for people who would otherwise have had nowhere to go,” read the email.
The communications advisor indicated shelter residents are being supported by OHEART, who provide services on-site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including daily meals and connections to health supports, which is particularly important given the vulnerability of many of seniors in the shelter.
“For several years, BC Housing has attempted to identify locations for shelters and supportive housing in Parksville and surrounding communities. We were able to get one supportive housing building built – the successful Orca Place – but the need in the community is significant. We will work to look at all options throughout the (Parksville Qualicum Beach) area. In the meantime, we will not be displacing the residents at the VIP Motel to homelessness.”