Open minds crucial as Island creates supportive housing

Lessons learned in Parksville need to be applied across our communities

It has been the source of plenty of controversy and angst.

The supportive housing project at 222 Corfield in Parksville has been a polarizing topic locally for some time now. It was the most notable issue in the most recent municipal election — a poster child of sorts for the fear created in Island communities tied to any influx of homeless people, supported or otherwise.

But now, regardless of whatever side of the ledger Parksville residents found themselves on, the project is here. The official announcement came Tuesday, when it was revealed residents will begin moving in on Aug. 19.

So what’s next?

While it’s inevitable opponents will continue to show their displeasure with the project, the best course of action now is simply to have an open mind.

Work together as a community and focus on the positives. It would be naive to assume zero problems will arise but approaching it from a positive perspective is most likely to pay long-term dividends.

A total of 52 residents will move in over a staggered period, with five people slated to move in the first day, and two to three people each day following.

READ MORE: Orca Place residents move in starting Aug. 19

Island Crisis Care Society will operate and maintain Orca Place, providing on-site 24/7 staffing and support to residents as well as security and management.

The fact 118 people applied to live in Orca Place indicates this is but a mere starting point. The notion of affordable housing for other locals, including the ‘working poor’ should remain a top priority.

And we understand that concerns remain, especially for neighbouring residents.

To that end, the ICCS has created a community advisory council that will start up this month. It will be composed of five people in the neighbourhood who can act as the representatives of the larger Parksville community.

ICCS officials called it a ‘solution-based’ group, which should also be seen as a positive.

As for the residents, all must be working towards a customized wellness plan with the help of Orca Place staff.

The hope is that the facility provides an environment that allows its residents to transition into permanent housing. This, in turn, would allow other vulnerable locals to move into Orca Place.

It is a noble goal. It’s said the truest measure of society is how it treats its weakest members.

“We know that this kind of housing works. We’re not guessing, we’re not relying on someone else. We know that this works,” said Renate Sutherland of the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness.

This is a tremendous opportunity for the new residents of Orca Place. Hopefully a legitimate springboard for them as they transition into living independently. It’s also an opportunity for the community to continue the steps required to provide affordable housing solutions for an even larger segment of the population.

And hopefully lessons learned in Parksville can be applied elsewhere on the Island.

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