The Town of Qualicum Beach has altered its plan to establish a temporary dry recovery community of up to 15 housing units to help people facing homelessness.
Last April, the town applied for a $1.25-million grant from the Strengthening Communities’ Services Program that was supported by the City of Parksville and the Regional District of Nanaimo Electoral Areas E (Nanoose Bay), F (Coombs, Hilliers, Errington, Whiskey Creek, Meadowood), G (French Creek, San Pareil, Little Qualicum, Englishman River), and H (Bowser, Qualicum Bay, Deep Bay).
The Union of B.C. Municipalities informed the town, although the proposed project was technically eligible for the grant, the chances for success was very remote due to the length of time for site preparation, servicing, unit construction and installation. Other project proposals, the UBCM indicated, were already operating shelters, or the units were under construction at the time of application.
The town was advised to modify their application to meet the criteria for timely implementation and enhanced the chance of approval. But due to the tight deadline, council was not able to discuss the modified application prior to re-submission on Aug. 16.
However, on Sept. 1, the town was informed that the revised application was approved for funding.
The original scope of the project has been totally changed with the budget cut from $1.28M to $189,660 as it will no longer has a shelter component, site preparation and other site specific costs.
Town council, at its regular meeting Sept. 8, voted in favour of staff’s recommendation to endorse the revised plan and to put it into motion.
The town originally planned to build the temporary housing on the western half of 987 Jones St. property, but after it received negative response from the community, council directed staff to look at the possibility of creating the recovery housing project on an Agricultural Land Reserve property located behind the Qualicum Beach Fire Department.
Under the revised plan, the town will no longer build temporary shelters. The services will now be provided by Forward House, Society of Organized Services, Island Crisis Care Society and OHEARTS. They will include: outreach services; full-time outreach worker and nurse; Saturday lunch program including part-time staff; part-time outreach worker/nurse on busy days, reporting and co-ordinating of project; community education and awareness – utilizing part-time services of the co-ordinator to provide education in community; raising awareness regarding homelessness, liaising with clients, and supporting housing initiatives; peer support – worker to accompany outreach worker; and personal protective equipment – provide PPE and client supports.
Coun. Teunis Westbroek said what is now being offered is “better than not having anything.”
“I never quite understood, to spend $1.2 million on a short-term location for some very few, 15 people,” said Westbroek. “I mean, everyone is important. Every single person is important. But that’s a lot of money to spend on 15 people. I think we can do a lot better we that kind of money to address more people’s needs. So I think this is a good step in the right direction.”
Coun. Scott Harrison, who has been advocating for affordable housing and temporary shelters in the town, preferred the original iteration but acknowledge that this was a “decent compromise.” However, he did raise concerns about what’s going to happen in the winter.
“I am not sure what St. Anne’s and St. Edmonds’s are going to do this year,” said Harrison. “Reverend (Christine) Muise is no longer in Oceanside. She’s moved on to a different parish. So I don’t know what the winter holds. So that’s the one unfortunate thing for me.”