Manna Homeless Society and the City of Parksville appear to have mended relations, as Manna announces new locations and times for providing support to the homeless, in need in the Parksville area. — NEWS File Photo

Parksville makes peace with homeless assistance group

Manna Homeless Society sees growth as it announces new locations, days for service

Manna Homeless Society and the City of Parksville appear to have mended their relationship.

Manna director and co-founder Robin Campbell and Manna’s community chaplain and operations manager Jerrold Paetkau met with Parksville Mayor Ed Mayne on Thursday, Dec. 6.

During the meeting, the Manna representatives “explained their recent change in focus and that they have found alternate locations rather than using the public property at Jensen Ave. West for their mobile care van,” according to a news release from the city.

RELATED: Outreach society changing what it does in Parksville Qualicum Beach area

The release also notes “the city recognizes the services provided by Manna are extremely valuable to the homeless and the at-risk of our community.

“Through their discussion, the city and Manna have agreed to communicate on a regular basis and work together towards improving the situation in our community. Manna has agreed to bring ideas for improvement to the city, when they see issues which could be solved together.”

This is a marked difference from mid-November, when the city sent a cease and desist order to Manna, requiring them to stop providing food, clothing and health care support to the homeless from city owned property, specifically the Jensen Avenue location where several homeless persons live in tents.

The city said this was done because of refuse left at the location, for which it held Manna at least partially responsible.

“Between the cost and the mess it was making, council, through the mayor, wanted something done about it so we basically wrote (Manna) a letter and told them that they were to cease and desist,” said the city’s CAO, Debbie Comis, in a previous interview.

RELATED: Outreach group ordered to stop feeding homeless on City of Parksville property

Manna denied that it was causing a mess, with Campbell saying the society puts an emphasis on cleanup. Campbell said he felt communication with the city would clear things up, however Mayne said in November that he saw no reason to meet with Campbell.

“Mr. Campbell can put whatever spin he wants on this, the reality is that we didn’t stop them from distributing foods, we didn’t stop them from doing anything. We just said you can’t do it on our property because that property is residential property and it’s not fair to the people in the neighbourhood,” adding that he said the city has received hundreds of complaints.

RELATED: Parksville won’t alter stance on group helping homeless on city property

In this latest news release, titled “Working Together to Help the Community,” Mayne is quoted as saying, “On behalf of council, I appreciate the willingness of Manna Homeless Society to meet with the city and look for ways we can work together. We don’t expect to be able to eliminate the homeless situation in our community overnight, but the city can work with Manna to find those small victories together until we do.”

MANNA IN THE COMMUNITY

Since deciding to stop providing services from the Jensen Ave. location (made before the city sent a cease and desist order), Manna has firmed up its new locations, days and times for providing services to the homeless and others in need.

Paetkau gave the following times, locations and services:

– Saturdays 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. in the Parksville legion parking lot (146 Hirst Ave. West) near Arbutus Grove Church, with the care mobile and limited emergency food and clothing.

– Saturdays 10:45 a.m. to Noon at Oceanside Community Church (1420 Alberni Hwy) near Church Road, with the care mobile, limited emergency food and more clothing.

– Wednesdays 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Salvation Army Church and soup kitchen (187 Alberni Hwy.), with the care mobile.

– Thursdays 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. at the Errington General Store (1544 Grafton Ave), with the care mobile.

Paetkau noted that this represents an increase in Manna’s availability, adding they are looking into additional sites including in Qualicum Beach.

Manna also has two nurse practitioners ready to volunteer with the care van who can provide some healthcare. The society hopes to add more, as well as find volunteers from other sectors of healthcare to work out of the care mobile. He said the outpouring of support for Manna has been amazing, including from Knox United Church and many others, and has resulted in more interest in volunteering.

“It’s very exciting. We’re hoping that our car van, the mobile community care van, will be utilized in a greater capacity, and we will be able to attract more community care providers that can give of their time… to be available for the people who currently are just not in the system.”

The idea with Manna’s new focus on providing healthcare is to break down barriers for the homeless and less-fortunate to getting care, making it easier for them to take care of themselves before a health situation gets worse, said Paetkau.

“For instance we’ve got a fellow that we’re aware of who had to be transported to the hospital just last week because of chronic foot problems,” Paetkau said. “He had his feet removed and now is in the hospital, but if he received care previously… he was just reluctant to go in and see anybody, but if he had the care van, then he could have received care and have prevented this.”

Paetkau described the meeting with Mayne as “very, very positive.”

“The city is very, very supportive of what Manna does and we both recognize, the city and us… that neither one of us wants a tent city in Parksville.”

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