BC Housing is joining St. Anne/St. Edmund Anglican Church in Parksville to house eight people per night until March 31 to address the region’s homelessness issue.
However, outreach worker Kelly Morris says while it is a short-term fix, it’s not the right answer.
“I’m not looking for a band-aid solution where you go in at night and out during the day. It defeats the purpose,” said Morris.
She camped in the church parking lot for five days last week to bring attention to the plight of what she calculates is over 400 homeless people in the Oceanside area.
“If people actually did the proper head counts here they’d realize like I have that there are sixteen bush camps with 396 people plus we have people in downtown Parksville plus we also have people around Qualicum that have nowhere to go,” added Morris.
A 2018 BC Housing research report identified 42 people as experiencing homelessness in Parksville.
Morris is a recovered addict herself and lived on the streets for years.
She says she “gets it” and that the real answer could be at the Parksville Community Centre that is currently closed because of COVID-19.
She says it could be used for housing and treatment at the same time to solve the problem.
She says if the problems of addiction are addressed first, the homelessness issue in Parksville and associated crimes could disappear in a matter of months.
“We need a place where recovery people can come in, Forward House can come in, mental health experts can come in and we can work around getting these people better,” she said.
Morris says she has already helped over 200 people get clean by allowing them into her home for immediate detox.
She recently helped Orion Holtby for a few days before sending him to Innervisions Recovery Society Treatment Program in Maple Ridge where he completed the program and is now clean.
Morris is also a graduate of Innervisions and says they keep beds open specifically for addicts she sends there because of the relationship she has with them.
“You know what happens when you’re out on the streets is that once the addiction takes a hold of you you don’t even realize that that’s the main cause of the problem,” said Holtby. “I’d known Kelly for about a year and she had offered me several times to come into her house and detox and I’ll get you into treatment. So that’s what I did.”
He says he’s clean today because of her and that she can help others still out there right now.
The City of Parksville says the province needs to bear the cost of such facilities and already has provided local housing for the homeless but that more homeless people keep coming.
Morris replied that a roof over their heads is a start but will never solve the root problem.