BC Housing will be closing a shelter set up at Parksville’s VIP Motel at the end of the month, leaving those who have been living there worried about their future.
The shelter, known as Ocean Place, was opened as an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the motel occupants, who are only using their first names, this closure means they could be living on the street again in a matter of days.
“If I do get kicked out of here, the only place I have to live is my car and the way my back is, it’s not going to be any good,” said Dan, a motel resident.
Helen, another resident, said her car broke down so she wouldn’t even have that as an option, adding she and her 10-year-old dog would be sitting on the curb.
“I can’t go out there. I’ll die if I have to go out there with my dog,” she said.
The zoning for the facility is for tourist commercial, meaning it’s intended to provide tourist lodging and other services to visitors and contributing valuable economic benefit to the city. This does not include supportive housing.
In September 2022, BC Housing applied for a Temporary Use Permit to allow the use on the property until March 31, 2023.
Parksville city council held a public meeting where it heard a mix of support and concerns about tourism and business impact.
Parksville council denied the permit, but issued a compliance agreement for BC Housing to bring Ocean Place into zoning compliance within 180 days and find suitable alternative housing options for the motel residents.
That agreement is set to expire on March 31.
“We are confident BC Housing has satisfied the commitments made as part of the compliance agreement to operate the VIP Motel as temporary shelter by providing suitable alternative accommodations for residents housed at the motel,” said Parksville Mayor Doug O’Brien in a news release. “We appreciate the commitment by BC Housing to work collaboratively in seeking long-term solutions, while respecting the safety and security of our citizens and businesses.”
Paula Miles, Ocean Place manager, said the shelter asked for an extension to allow the community and all levels of government to make shelter and low income housing plans for the area, but claims BC Housing said no.
Ocean Place also said the owners were even willing to extend the lease, as the building will otherwise sit empty as they renovate another property before they can begin upgrades on the motel.
“You close us down on the 31st, our cold-weather shelter closes on the 31st and there are no other places for the people here to go,” Miles said.
The shelter’s recovery coach, Kelly Morris, said there aren’t enough resources in the Parksville area for the vulnerable population and forcing them to the streets is a bad idea.
“We don’t have any services here. We can’t get on board with mental health or island crisis. We can’t get any help here. The only help these people have is us,” Morris said. “Putting them out there is murder. All levels of government, I need them to step up and do what’s right. They can overrule BC Housing to get this funded for another year.”
BC Housing confirmed to CHEK News it has offered indoor accommodation to all the remaining motel guests, but did not say where in Parksville it was, citing privacy concerns.
It said it is also working with the province and partners on comprehensive solutions to address root causes of homelessness and its many challenges.
“BC Housing and the Province recognize that shelters are not a long-term solution to homelessness, which is why we have opened 52 supportive homes in Parksville since 2018 and are working to provide a range of housing options and supports” BC Housing said in a statement.
Dan told CHEK News there is no where else for them to go in Parksville as the motel has become home and residents are like a big family.
“Please help us. We are in need of a lot of support here. Soon,” he said.