Kuu-us outreach appeals to city for program support

People who need a hot meal from the Kuu-us Crisis Line outreach program on Saturdays will have to continue eating outside—at least for now.

Supporters and users of the Kuu-us Crisis Line outreach program gather outside city hall after their presentation on Monday. Program and city staffs will be examining how they can use a donated city facility to serve hot meals to clients on Saturday nights.

People who need a hot meal from the Kuu-us Crisis Line outreach program on Saturdays will have to continue eating outside—at least for now.

Flanked by more than 25 supporters, Kuu-us official Petra Barnfield addressed council, reminding Mayor John Douglas of his campaign platform, that stated council has a moral duty to assist and support the Valley’s needy in order to overcome their challenges.

Last month, Kuu-us had written to council asking for a meeting to discuss using city facilities to host the outreach program on Saturdays. Instead of accepting or declining Kuu-us’ request, council got into a debate about the merits of the initiative, then filed the letter without a reply.

On Monday, Barnfield reiterated the need for a city facility with a kitchen so hot meals could be served to needy clients, 510 of which were served last year.

Petra BarnfieldPresently, the program serves meals to people rain or shine on Saturday nights outside of the video store on Third Avenue and Mar Street.

The program wouldn’t infringe on city facility rentals, Barnfield said, and Kuu-us officials are willing to move from space to space.

Using city facilities was identified in a survey of program clients, who said they wanted something central and non-denominational, she added.

The outreach program fills a service gap by operating on Saturdays when other agencies are closed on weekends.

Kuu-us may be requesting the space but it’s for the benefit of the people it serves, an emotional executive director Elia Nicholson said.

“These people are human beings. They want to have a voice because they said the city won’t listen,” she said. “You don’t think they mean anything. They mean everything.”

Coun. Hira Chopra asked Barnfield who would be responsible for security and cleanup at a facility. “If there’s no extra charges to the city I will support you,” Chopra said. “If it costs extra then you pay.”

The supporters replied “We will,” in unison.

Kuu-us is part of the Community Stakeholders Initiative To End Homelessness, said Coun. Cindy Solda.

CSI is helping allocate $300,000 given to the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District from the Vancouver Island Health Authority for homeless initiatives. “I suppose I’m going to become public enemy No. 1 for this,” she said. “Have you applied?”

Nicholson replied that Kuu-us doesn’t fit the criteria for the money, which is to be used for housing and landlord-tenant related issues.

Solda further asked why Kuu-us can’t coordinate space with other social agencies or seek sponsorship from service groups. “We’re going to open Pandora’s Box to other agencies,” she said.

Barnfield replied that direction was taken from the program survey, which was specific about the space.

Coun. Wendy Kerr inquired about Gyro Youth Centre. Parks and recreation director Scott Kenny replied that it’s used on Saturdays for the Nights Alive program but that space may be available during the summer.

Coordinating space at other facilities would be a challenge, as they are 70 per cent booked for the remainder of the year. Several other non-profits pay to use the facilities, he added.

Douglas steered the matter into Kenny’s hands, saying that further discussion should take place, with the results being brought back to council.

The night was a victory in that council listened and didn’t say no, Nicholson said later.

“Some councillors have issues with certain topics though,” she said.

Nicholson wouldn’t speculate if there were other issues behind council balking at use of the space. “I can’t guess what they’re thinking,” she said. “But I think we’re on the right track and will be doing our due diligence.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com