Formed in 2010 by the City of Parksville, the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness is committed to addressing homelessness and related issues in the catchment area of School District 69, known as Oceanside. This is an area of over 700km2 and includes a population of about 50,000. The task force strives to provide locally based coordination, collaboration and action on the issue of homelessness. Membership includes local and regional governments, various service agencies and concerned citizens. The task force is also supported by MLA Michelle Stilwell and MP Gord Johns.
Current membership includes representation from the Regional District of Nanaimo, City of Parksville, Town of Qualicum Beach, Society of Organized Services, Island Crisis Care Society, Forward House Community Society, Haven Society, Canadian Mental Health Association, RCMP, Island Health, KAIROS, United Way, Manna Homeless Society, as well as two experienced community members.
The Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness is a collaborative table of dedicated individuals wishing to address homelessness together. There are three volunteer co-chairs whose time is donated by the non-profit agencies they work for and the staff
- Susanna Newton with the Society of Organized Services (SOS) has taken the lead and donated the administration responsibilities of the Task Force.
- Violet Hayes and the Island Crisis Care Society (ICCS) is the lead on housing initiatives.
- Sharon Welch and Forward House Community Society is the lead on
- Other members of the Task Force volunteer their time for planning,
education and coordination of community events.
Because the task force is not a legal entity, it does not hold any funds. Funding opportunities are discussed at task force meetings and if agreed upon, the most appropriate non-profit society is asked to make the request. This is an amazing collaborative decision by the agencies and is quite unique to the Oceanside community. The decision to work together for funding
opportunities has worked extremely well by reducing competition, increasing trust among the agencies and increasing the overall success of applications. To ensure accountability, ALL awarded funds are held by the same non-profit societies on behalf of the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness.
The Society of Organized Services, on behalf of the task force, received funding provided originally by Island Health to the Regional District of Nanaimo to be distributed throughout the region. The task force was responsible for bringing the extreme weather shelter to this community and supplemented the funding provided by BC Housing required to operate the shelter. The coordination and activation of the shelter is donated by the SOS. The Salvation Army operated the shelter from 2011 to 2015 and contributed significant additional funding during its operations. During this time, the shelter was open for an average of 48 nights per winter with more than 504 attendances in the shelter during the worst weather.
In 2016, the Island Crisis Care Society took over the operation of the
extreme weather shelter now located on Mills Street in Parksville. The space used to operate the shelter was provided by Vancouver Island University.
Information is incredibly important when trying to address issues. As such, the task force provided the funding and many of the volunteers for two homeless counts. While a point-in-time count is only a snapshot of homelessness in the area, it provided the beginning of the framework to develop a solution. Next, the SOS, on behalf of the task force, was awarded their funding proposal to hire a coordinator to provide a needs assessment and develop community collaboration around homelessness. A detailed report and public presentation was provided which considered all aspects of homelessness, including access to health, transportation, food, emergency services, as well as housing. Gaps in services were identified and potential solutions were suggested. This information was critical to changing the community conversation around homelessness.
In addition to generating necessary information to secure a long-term solution, the task force, through the Society of Organized Services and the Island Crisis Care Society, also funded immediate opportunities to help homeless residents.
- Showers, socks, underwear, t-shirts and toiletries are provided by SOS.
- The annual Project Connect Health Fair has connected about 100 individuals to much needed health and wellness services, including vision exams and glasses, haircuts, nurses, hearing exams, clothing, etc.
- Organizes fresh fruit and vegetable donations from Costco. These are picked up by the Salvation Army and distributed through the food bank and the van operated by Manna Homelessness Society.
- Developed Homelessness Outreach Support Team (HOST), an inter-agency support team to help the most vulnerable in our community to access and maintain housing.
- About 30 people have been housed in just over 18 months.