Posted by Wendy Pratt on Feb 06, 2019

Violet Hayes, Executive Director of Island Crisis Care, established in 1989, provided a thought provoking presentation on the extensive services provided by ICCS whose vision (and mission) is to provide shelter and care for those in need on Vancouver. Their programs cover not only our own community but that of Parksville/Qualicum and surrounding areas. In Nanaimo they provide oversight and support for the newly established 250 Newcastle project to house 78 homeless on Terminal Avenue as well as at Samaritan House where a capital campaign to double the capacity has been ongoing for the past year and a half.

Right now ICCS has 90 Front-line and Support workers, the majority of which are volunteers who work closely with 4 Program Managers, 5 Executives, and 3 Office Support Staff. In Nanaimo, we have all been made very aware of how important, and how under resourced, this work is.

Here are just some of the ways ICCS helps: In 2003, 6 crisis stabilization beds were opened at Hirst House; Oceanside Outreach provides housing for 50 individuals; An extreme weather shelter, is now a winter shelter that offers 8 beds in Parksville through out the entire winter season; Safe Harbour House opened in 2005 with 5 crisis stabilization beds; The Bridge that provides 6 supportive recovery beds and is the next step after Safe Harbour House; Crescent House providing similar programs for both crisis and shelter and more. These programs have the capacity to provide 18,440 bed/days and it is only with a lot of ingenuity and caring and squeezing people in that they provided 20,911 (113% over capacity) in 2017.

Needless to say the need has dramatically grown as witnessed in Nanaimo when 400 homeless individuals gathered in Discontent City. BC Housing responded and ICCS was asked to provide support at to create individualize support plans. It’s a start, but as Violet so clearly stated, everything to do with this project was rushed in response to a court injunction – it’s not perfect, but they are working every day, as hard as they can, to improve the situation not only for the 78 individuals being served but also for the surrounding neighbourhood.

In addition to all of the above, Samaritan House in Nanaimo offers 14 emergency shelter beds for women, 6 supportive units (Martha’s place) 6 Transitional units (Mary’s Place) and 5 rent subsidies. Samaritan House has been in continual operation since 1989. Women receive shelter, 3 meals per day, clothing and emotional support. To give a glimpse into the need for the shelter beds, in January 2018 103 women were turned away, and 86, 43,64,24,24,24,72,69,49,43, and 49 were turned away in each of the remaining months of the year. It is heart breaking for the staff to have to turn people away and they do their best to squeeze in extra beds and/or refer these women to other safe locations…. but often there is nowhere for them to go.

Violet provided so many stats that we could fill pages, but one of the most touching parts of her presentation was a video of a woman in her late 50’s who would never, in her wildest dreams, have imagined herself homeless, who got help after running out of all other resources, from Samaritan House. She says she was desperate and despondent and credits the people at Samaritan House with saving her life. Today she gives back in every way she can.


The Campaign for Samaritan House expansion to increase capacity will include space for families; meeting spaces for support staff, nurses, and others to meet with clients privately, a commercial teaching kitchen, better “common area” spaces, and more supportive beds.

One of the ways that others can help with the campaign is to join with others to put together teams and walk in the ICCS Coldest Night of the Year event to be held this year on February 23. You can walk a short way or a long way and at the end enjoy a bowl of hot soup and coffee, to give the smallest of glimpses into what someone might experience being out in the cold and having access to shelter and warmth, however temporary. Of course we can never truly understand the impact on people suffering on the street with no resources but I’m sure there wasn’t one person in the room listening to that video and listening to Violet’s presentation that didn’t understand the wide divide between our own good fortune and the misfortune of so many in our community.

People can register individually or in teams at and then get sponsorship and donations from friends and family to donate. The ICCS goal this year is to raise $40,000 in Nanaimo and $40,000 in Oceanside.

Joan Ryan thanked  Violet Hayes for this thought provoking presentation and presented her with a hand made Rotary pen.