Building permit issues threaten to close valuable free soup program in Nanaimo

By Spencer Sterritt
March 4, 2019 - 7:49pm

Every night slow cookers and containers of food are brought out to the dining area at Stone Soup, built behind a house on Nicol St. Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — A hot meal program for Nanaimo's homeless and impoverished has less than two weeks to remove an expansive outdoor dining area after it was discovered a building permit was never issued for the project.

A notice from the City of Nanaimo says the organizers of the Stone Soup program have until March 14 to remove the floating deck, walls, counter tops and fridges which are used to feed roughly 150 people a night.

Creator Tanya Hiltz told NanaimoNewsNOW they recognize a building permit should have been obtained when they built the deck nearly six months ago, but they don't understand why the space needs to be torn down.

“Give us a break here,” she said. “Slap us on the wrist, we did something wrong. But work with us. These people need us.”

Since first opening almost exactly one year ago, the Stone Soup program grew dramatically. Roughly 20 people were fed the first night, when it was just a few tables in the neighbouring parking lot. With the new expansion, the program consistently feeds 150 people experiencing homelessness or poverty.

“We're feeding people nightly which means more soup, less crime. It's happening.”

Hiltz expressed shock at the notice from the City, saying they received the proper permits from Island Health and regularly speak to bylaw officers. 

“We've had major public figures, the old mayor, the new mayor, visit us. Nobody ever said anything. I didn't think about it because Stone Soup built so fast.”

Dale Lindsay, director of community development with the City of Nanaimo, confirmed the building inspection was prompted by a complaint about the property.

Given the scope of the construction and the recent issuing of the notice, Lindsay said it would be premature to say if anything can be done to fix the situation and keep the dining area open.

With the deadline quickly approaching, Hiltz said their supporters are sending letters to Nanaimo officials and trying to find a solution.

“All we're concerned about is straightening this out and continuing to look after our homeless, our working poor, our low-income seniors and children that come for a hot meal.”

However, if the deadline does pass with no resolution, Hiltz said she's ready to battle the City with everything she has.

“Let's take a hard look at tent city. Neither Council has done anything about this. But along comes a non-profit with an idea we never thought would get this big. Every day we're doing something to enhance the neighbourhood and feed people.”

Stone Soup celebrates it's one year anniversary on Sunday, March 10.


Supporters prepare for gut-wrenching trial in death of beloved Gabriola Island man