It’s a tale of two cities when it comes to homeless resources over the winter this year.
While Nanaimo continues adding warming centres, services, and shelters to help people escape the cold, Parksville and Qualicum Beach have nothing.
Dave Harlow is among the city’s unhoused and needs a place to call home, but says it seems like the government doesn’t care.
Last year, at a special meeting on Dec. 21, Parksville city council voted to affirm an overnight shelter funded by the province after weeks of frigid temperatures.
This year, there is no overnight shelter or even a warming centre in the city even though the homeless population here continues to increase, now up to 103 according to a recent census.
“Either they’re blind or criminal to what’s going on out here,” said Harlow.
“There are no resources. No shelter plans.”
On Tuesday, Parksville’s Mayor Doug O’Brien wasn’t available to discuss the issue, but last December, he said the system needs better coordination.
“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,” O’Brien told CHEK News.
“It’s going to be a lot more effective and a lot less panic at the end of the day.”
Meanwhile, in Nanaimo, it’s a completely different take on a complex situation.
City council voted last week to fund a second and third warming centre. That’s in addition to several non-profit overnight shelters and food programs already running. Granted, the city’s homeless population is much larger, estimated at roughly 650.
Now Island Health says it will chip in, offering a one-time grant of $250,000 to help fund Nanaimo’s three warming centres.
It says the money will fill gaps in service for health needs such as overdose prevention, harm reduction and personal hygiene. Nanaimo’s mayor says it’s like a gift before Christmas.
“The city is extremely pleased to receive money from Island Health to compensate us for money the city was prepared to pay out to provide warming centres. I mean, it’s a good news day for the City of Nanaimo, but again, it’s a sad reminder of the fact that we still have hundreds of people living in our streets,” said Krog.
Back in Parksville, Dave Harlow says the lack of resources can lead to other costs after a recent 10-day hospital stay.
“I myself have been in the hospital three times for exposure this year.”
BC Housing says it has overnight shelter and extreme weather response shelter funding available for more spaces, but there are challenges in some communities around identifying suitable sites or securing shelter providers.