Parksville City Council green lights opening of emergency warming shelter


Parksville has its first low-barrier warming shelter and now the vulnerable have a place to escape the freezing cold.

It actually opened Tuesday but Parksville gave it the green light Wednesday, just days before Christmas.

According to the vulnerable, this facility is desperately needed in the Parksville-Qualicum Beach area and there have been calls for one for weeks if not months.

It’s the region’s first low-barrier warming centre when temperatures dip dangerously low and it could become the home of a future overnight shelter.

It’s located on Mills Street just off the Island Highway.

“This is great. It’s absolutely necessary like no one had anywhere else to go. I was sleeping in the forest and I’ve heard other people sleeping in the community parks,” said Dylan Pounder, who has been homeless in recent months following a hospital stay.

Parksville City Council held a special meeting Wednesday to green-light the facility’s use, despite not spending any money on it.

“The motion that council had to approve was that the City of Parksville affirms the contract the province of BC has made with Risebridge to operate the warming centre,” said Mayor Doug O’Brien.

O’Brien says council had to approve the centre’s location and conduct background checks on Risebrige, the service provider.

Council voted unanimously in favour but O’Brien says there should be a more coordinated approach to services so special meetings aren’t required weeks after freezing winter weather has arrived.

“We have to make sure that we come at this like Vancouver Island wide and that’s what we have to address because then if we have the centres in place permanently that’s going to take care of this. It’s going to be a lot more effective and a lot less panic at the end of the day.”

Risebridge’s executive director says this is the first time Parksville has had a low-barrier facility like this and one youth yesterday who visited couldn’t believe it.

“He asked what kind of supports we’d be able to offer him and he looked at us and just started crying his eyes out,” said Jovonne Johnson.

“I’ve worked in this field for a while. I don’t usually get quite emotional but I think it’s quite a challenge that there have been so many people in this community that have been without any adequate support services for so long,” said Johnson.

In a statement, BC Housing says it’s funded more than 500 shelter spaces on Vancouver Island and there is funding for additional sites though some communities have challenges in finding sites or service providers.

Dylan Pounder, who’s just become homeless in recent months, says there are just not enough services for the vulnerable.

You can find what the City of Parksville has released about the warming shelter here.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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