A proposal by the Island Crisis Care Society and B.C. Housing to use the former temporary shelter space at Orca Place to operate a small craft-making business for residents has been denied by Parksville city council.
The program was first proposed by the two groups at the Oct. 7 Parksville council meeting, and council referred it to the Orca Place Community Advisory Committee for their input.
The program, entitled ‘Handmade for Hope,’ would have seen residents of Orca Place learn how to make and market craft items for sale. The CAC voted in favour of the proposal, and that correspondence was forwarded to council for consideration on Nov. 18.
Coun. Marilyn Wilson put forward and Coun. Mark Chandler seconded a motion at the Nov. 18 council meeting to reject the proposal, but instead allow use of the space as an exercise and hobby room, provided the space is not used for business.
Wilson says she thinks that since it’s a supportive housing facility focused on wellness and recovery, that exercise and hobby equipment would be a better use of the space. She also shared concerns about increased parking, non-residents in the space and demand on staff time while residents are getting settled.
Coun. Adam Fras supported the motion, saying he believes the program is an attempt by the ICCS to turn a profit, and that there are already back-to-work programs available in Parksville. He also felt as though the report by the ICCS about the CAC’s decision wasn’t detailed enough.
Mayor Ed Mayne voted against the motion.
“It’s none of our business… As long as they are within the zoning that is allowed, they’re legal. And if it’s legal, then we shouldn’t be in the middle of this one. We can’t start making decisions all the way along for other organizations for everything just because we’re involved with the property.”
Corrie Corfield is the assistant executive director at the ICCS. She says she’s disappointed with the council’s decision, saying that she feels there was some misunderstanding at council as to what the proposal actually entailed.
Corfield says the format of a business proposal was necessary in order to receive grant funding, and that the program was supported by the Parksville Career Centre as a pre-employment program.
“It’s just a little disconcerting I suppose that maybe the questions weren’t asked, or there was a lack of understanding in the proposal,” said Corfield.
She said that while the employment programs are great, they require a level of employment skills that some of the residents don’t have yet, like working with others, receiving direction, and showing up at specific times to do specific tasks.
“Which a lot of people might take for granted, but… those are learned skills. And they’re important,” said Corfield.
As for the suggestion that the space be used as an exercise facility, Corfield said it was a good suggestion, but she isn’t aware of any public funding or grants that would support that.
In the end, Corfield says the ICCS is able to operate the program elsewhere, but it would have been nice to be able to use that space.
“As ICCS, we see those empty rooms, and we know what they were intended for. And it’s heartbreaking to see that they sit empty. And so we wanted to do something positive, to use those spaces, that could take us in a different direction,” said Corfield.