PARKSVILLE — Efforts to combat homelessness in the Oceanside area received a major boost from the province.
Selina Robinson, minister of municipal affairs and housing, announced a 50-unit supportive housing project as part of the provinces effort to deliver 2,000 modular units throughout the province on Friday, March 9. The provincially-funded initiative will cost $6.9 million dollars, with the Regional District of Nanaimo also providing $660,000 towards the development.
Parksville mayor Marc Lefebvre told NanaimoNewsNOW the project is expected to have a major impact on those in Oceanside experiencing homelessness, which as of the last count in 2013 was 67 people.
"At the present time, we have to beg, steal and borrow to have cold weather shelters open in the winter time. Now this will provide that kind of shelter, which is going to be key," he said.
He attributed the success of the project, in the works for more than a year, to cooperation between Parksville, the Regional District of Nanaimo and their neighbours.
"There's an old saying I often use: 'When you want to go fast you go alone, you want to go far you go together.' And we've gone together on this thing."
The modular units will be built at 222 Corfield St. S. and 24/7 staffing will be provided by the Island Crisis Care Society, who run existing shelters in the mid-Island area. It will house those at a high-risk of homelessness and also seniors and people with disabilities. The supports planned for the housing include life and employment skills training and health services helping them move towards a more stable life.
There will also be space alloted for a cold weather shelter operating from November to March, though it's unknown how many it will house.
Development on Corfield St. was in the works for more than a year and mayor Lefebvre said infrastructure work at the site is already planned for the summer and fall and the doors are expected to open early next year.
This announcement comes on the heels of a similar but not identical supportive housing project which didn't go ahead in Nanaimo, after the City rejected the proposed site in Chase River and couldn't find a suitable alternative in time.
Lefebvre said they learned a lot of lessons from watching the project unfold in Nanaimo and even consulted with Nanaimo social planner John Horn.
He said the biggest takeaway for their own efforts was to the engage the community early and often.
On March 6 the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness circulated a letter to the community informing them of the development and who would live there.
"They're going to be fanning out throughout the community, telling people what they're going to do and how they're going to do it. The key is going to be consulting with people who have concerns," Lefebvre said.
Having already fielded concerns from many Parksville residents, Lefebvre said he and those involved are working hard to alleviate any concerns.
"They may not be eliminated, but they'll be alleviated because I know everyone wants to do a good job with this."
In contrast, many neighbours of the proposed Chase River development learned about it when they read articles about it online and information given at an open house held several days later was at odds with what was announced.
In Parksville, an open house about the Corfield project is 3 to 7 p.m. at the Parksville Conference Centre on Tuesday, March 20.
On Twitter: @nanaimonewsnow
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