A Parksville woman and advocate for the community’s less fortunate is disheartened after she says she was accosted while displaying support for the community’s controversial supportive housing project and its future tenants.
Karen Brooks was hanging hearts on a chain link fence that surrounds the 222 Corfield construction site on March 13, with her daughter and friend. The hearts, made of corrugated plastic, are part of a fundraiser Brooks and fellow advocate Mara Nord began to raise money for a small housewarming gift for future tenants. For every $5 donated, a heart will be attached to the fence at the construction site.
Brooks received permission from BC Housing to display the hearts on the fence.
Brooks said she attached approximately 150 hearts on March 13 and displayed them in the shape of one big heart. During the assembly, Brooks said a woman approached them in her vehicle, pulled over to the side of the road and began yelling at them.
“[She was] asking us, ‘Do we support this, what are the hearts for… shame on us, shame on us,’” Brooks said. “There was a digger of some sort operating so it was hard to hear her… so I kind of just turned my back on her and carried on. It was not a nice experience.”
After finishing hanging the hearts and taking a few photos of the display, Brooks said she went and grabbed a coffee and then drove back past the 222 Corfield site. No more than an hour later several of the hearts were torn down from the fence.
“It was just sad and not an appropriate way to handle any anger at all,” Brooks said. “It was just ugly.”
Brooks plans to talk to construction workers at the site to possibly come up with an alternative location to place the hearts, somewhere “safer” she said.
“At this point, I’m just really sad. No matter if you agree or disagree, it’s a fundraiser and it’s about hope and love and compassion and that’s my view on it,” Brooks said.
Nord, who is also part of the fundraising initiative, said after she heard what happened to her friend while putting up the hearts she decided to file a complaint with the Oceanside RCMP. She said she and Brooks have a meeting planned with an officer to discuss the details of what occurred.
“I’m really hurt and I’m really mad,” Nord said. “I’m so done with the hate. I’m trying to do so much to bring the hate down.”
BC Housing confirmed Brooks had permission to put the hearts along the 222 Corfield fence.
“The community-led initiative to prepare welcome items for future residents of the supportive housing in Parksville is similar to other such welcome packages prepared by neighbours of supportive housing in Vancouver, Kamloops, and other communities,” BC Housing said in an email statement. “Residents are often quite moved by welcoming gestures like these when they move into their new homes, and it is always encouraging to see positive examples of acceptance in communities where supportive housing is being established.”
The Oceanside RCMP did not respond to a request for information from the NEWS.