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

Escaped python found in Saanich building reunited with its owner

The little snake is at ‘home, safe and sound,’ CRD chief bylaw officer says

UVic closes Finnerty Gardens and popular dog park Cedar Corner

Regular dog walkers to Cedar Corner sent elsewhere during pandemic

Highway 1 tree removal impacts traffic Tuesday evening

Work starts April 7 at 6 p.m. between Finlayson Arm Road and Westshore Parkway

No one injured in Saanich townhouse fire

Blaze may have been connected to fireplace use

Victoria police seek public’s help finding man missing more than a week

Joel Diment 26 and has short brown hair and hazel eyes

Mental Health: Planning for a crisis

Crisis planning lays out a blueprint in case hard times hit

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

Comox spring training cancelled for Snowbirds next month

The team announced that due to ongoing travel restrictions they will not be training in the Valley

Some Cowichan schools to reopen for children of essential-services workers

Cowichan Valley will open 8 elementary schools this week

RCMP call on kids to name latest foal recruits

The baby horses names are to start with the letter ‘S’

Physiotherapists turn to technology to reach patients during COVID-19

Just because services, jobs, and socializing have been put on hold, it… Continue reading

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

Logan Boulet Effect: Green Shirt Day calls on Canadians to become organ donors

While social distancing, the day also honours the 16 lives lost in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos Crash

Most Read