Tanya Hiltz, left, and Amber McGrath were among those marching to Nanaimo city hall Friday in support of a soup kitchen in the south end of Nanaimo. (KARL YU/News Bulletin)

Advocates rally in support of Stone Soup in Nanaimo

People march to Nanaimo city hall on April 5 to support volunteer-run meal program

Advocates of a soup kitchen in the south end of Nanaimo rallied against its potential closure on Friday afternoon.

The Wisteria Community Association started Stone Soup – which serves food to people experiencing homelessness – in March 2018. Last month, the City of Nanaimo advised that the soup shack, located in the backyard of a Nicol Street residence, went up without a building permit. Subsequently, the residents have been served with an eviction notice from their landlord and supporters marched from Stone Soup’s locale to Nanaimo city hall in protest.

“We’re going to … fight for the Stone Soup program,” said Amber McGrath, event organizer. “They’re the only free soup kitchen in Nanaimo. The only free place to get a hot meal at night and if the city wants to continue to use permits and bylaws and just excuse after excuse, why don’t they step up and help? We could be working together and we’re not.”

RELATED: Program will keep serving up soup after setback

Tanya Hiltz, Nicol Street house resident and association representative, wonders why the city isn’t practising what it preaches.

“They’re putting a brand new fence around the [service and resource centre] building,” said Hiltz. “It’s going to be eight-foot-five. Whoa, we have a problem here. Legal fence height is six feet, so how come they get a variance and they won’t give us a variance?”

Dale Lindsay, city director of community development, said the city had received a complaint from the public and does not issue eviction notices. It is between property owner and tenant, he said.

“In cases such as this, where building infractions are brought to our attention, we work with the owner to rectify those deficiencies and how the owner chooses to do that is up to the owner,” said Lindsay. “Certainly we’ve been in contact. We received a complaint originally and our inspectors attended the site, identified that there was work there that was not in compliance with the building code and required permit, and a request was [made] to the owner to rectify that.”

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