St. Anne’s Church in Parksville. (File photo)

‘I bawled, it was heartbreaking’: Parksville homeless shelter forced to close due to COVID-19 concerns

Reverend at St. Anne’s Church pleads for government’s assistance, facility doesn’t pass health standard

The only homeless shelter in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area has closed due to COVID-19 concerns, leaving Rev. Christine Muise pleading for government help.

The area had been in shelter limbo for months, finally finding a cold-weather shelter solution in December 2019 – the ‘Sanctuary Sleep’ at St. Anne’s Church. Muise said they’ve been busy ever since and the stability of the shelter has helped people using it to get into treatment programs.

St. Anne’s was a last-minute solution to a pressing problem — it was the middle of winter and there was nowhere for people experiencing homelessness to go, so Muise decided to step up. But the church, at 125 years old, doesn’t have all the amenities required for it to stay open amid the COVID-19 outbreak — no running water amid tight quarters.

Muise said telling the 18 guests was “dreadful.”

The next two nights, five people slept outside the doors of the church, with nowhere else to go.

“I bawled, it was heartbreaking,” she said. “To be breaking the news to them, you’re already dealing with people who have absolutely nothing, and you’re telling them that you can no longer help them, it’s a cruel place to be.”

READ MORE: How Parksville’s St. Anne’s became a place homeless people would actually go

Muise said from a public health perspective, helping people affected by homelessness is a necessary step to reducing the spread of the virus. She said people without homes can’t easily self-isolate, it’s harder for them to routinely wash their hands and they can have underlying health conditions.

The closure is especially troubling for Muise since she felt like St. Anne’s had filled a gap that had been needed in the community.

In the spring of 2019, the City of Parksville secured full control over the use of what is now supportive housing complex Orca Place, by purchasing it for $700,000 and repaying a $492,400 grant-in-aid to the Regional District of Nanaimo. With the purchase, the housing facility no longer required an eight-bed cold-weather shelter, a requirement of the RDN.

Muise put out a message asking the following:

“If a facility were to be opened or even a motel procured, where staff and guests were able to follow protocols for safety, where people had the emotional support and connection they need to remain stable, then our whole community (Qualicum First Nation, Snaw-Naw-As First Nation, City of Parksville, Town of Qualicum, Regional District of Nanaimo),” she wrote. “I am asking for continued help beyond one month for our two guests staying at the hotel.” 

Muise said she’s also thinking of the families and people who are at risk of homelessness in the area.

“I am asking for preparation for all the families for whom we know live ‘in poverty’ who are going to be a much more visible population in the coming days, weeks and months.”

So far, people running St. Anne’s have been able to get two seniors who were staying at the church hotel rooms paid for by BC Housing.

cloe.logan@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

CoronavirusHomelessnessHousing and HomelessnessParksvillequalicum beach

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

NIC biologist on forefront of marine research

NIC biologist on forefront of marine research NIC biology instructor and marine… Continue reading

Campbell River RCMP issue statement in support of a peaceful rally and against racism

The Campbell River RCMP issued a statement in support of a peaceful… Continue reading

Road maintenance work scheduled for Black Creek and Quadra Island

Spring roadside work will be in progress along Highway 19 A and Granite Bay Road on multiple days

Vancouver Island’s current COVID-19 case count officially hits zero

Of the 130 recorded Island Health cases, five people have died, 125 recovered

Trudeau offers $14B to provinces for anti-COVID-19 efforts through rest of year

Making a difference in municipalities is a pricey proposition

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Mirror business directory and map

If you’d like to be added to the list, shoot us an email

Friends, family mourn Salt Spring Island woman killed in suspected murder-suicide

A GoFundMe comapaign has been launched for Jennifer Quesnel’s three sons

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

‘Alarmed’: Health critic calls for more data on COVID-19 in trucking industry

Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec said that level of detail is not being collected

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

Most Read