After three dead bodies were found along Melrose Road in Whiskey Creek on Nov. 1, attention has been drawn to the number of people living in remote areas of the region.
A source told the PQB News she had called 9-1-1 on Nov. 1 at 6:10 a.m., to report what she had initially thought was a forest fire in the Whiskey Creek area. She had seen smoke while driving south along Highway 19, near the Little Qualicum bridge. RCMP have yet to confirm her 911 call.
In the most recent Point-in-Time Homeless Count 2018, presented by the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness, 42 people were identified as experiencing homelessness in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area. A total of 57 per cent of that count had been homeless for one year or more, while 43 per cent had been homeless for less than one year.
Auren Ruvinsky, co-ordinator of the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness, said “it’s important to keep in mind that these figures are only of people coming forward and identifying themselves.”
Regional District of Nanaimo Electoral Area F (Coombs, Hilliers, Errington, Whiskey Creek, Meadowood) director Leanne Salter said “there are a lot of people living here, you just can’t see them. Lots of people living in the bush. And they span the area from under the overpass by the ramp, and all the way up.”
Salter said an estimate of 300 people experiencing homelessness along the Melrose Road area in Whiskey Creek seemed accurate.
“We have a lot of people living in RVs out there. That’s probably not as bad as people living rough with nothing.”
On Saturday night, Oct. 31, residents close to the gravel pit on Melrose Road said they had heard gunshots and several loud explosions that night, followed by the smell of burning plastic. Many dismissed the idea of foul play because it was Halloween night, and fireworks were rampant.
Salter stated that the RDN does not get complaints from the surrounding Whiskey Creek area about people “living it rough.” She believes that part of the reason there is a homeless community in that area is because they’re not being “pushed out,” which tends to happen in more populated areas.
The other part, she said, comes down to an over-arching health issue.
“If you’re a sick person and you need medical care, you need medical care. You don’t need to be put into a house with kind people with big hearts that care about you, but can’t take care of your medical issue because they’re not trained to do that.”
Her guess is that it’s cheaper to build housing for people experiencing homelessness, than it is to provide them with the medical help they need.
“And with COVID, its even more exacerbated. What little services, and they were minimal, that were in place prior to COVID, are not even available now.”
Cpl. Chris Manseau, RCMP division media relations officer, said there is nothing new to release regarding the bodies found, the gunshot victim or any potential suspects at large.