Homelessness is not a choice.

Poverty and homelessness are complex issues and there are many reasons why a person may become homeless. Job loss, injury, addiction, trauma, mental illness and lack of affordable housing increase a person’s risk of becoming homeless. Many families in our area are already struggling, living only a paycheque away from homelessness.

Nanaimo’s poverty rate is higher than both the provincial and national averages.

What is most alarming is the changing face of poverty and homelessness in our community. With the growing lack of affordable housing and other social gaps in our area, we are seeing more men and women over the age of 50 requiring emergency shelter and support.

12% of Nanaimo’s seniors live below the poverty line.

Imagine an older woman, struggling with arthritis or incontinence having to climb to the top of a bunk bed at our shelter, or to lay down on the only available floor mat between the washer and dryer. Or being turned away because of lack of space. She is then forced to find shelter in an unsafe place, where the risk of sexual assault and other forms of trauma add to her already vulnerable situation.

That’s the new reality for both men and women seeking shelter in Nanaimo. And no, it’s not a choice.

How COVID is making the need for a home even more pressing.

How do you shelter at home when you don’t have one?

The new face of homelessness.

Our most pressing challenges:

Bed Availability

We regularly must turn people away due to lack of beds.

Mental Health

Mental illness is more prevalent and violence is increasing.

Medical Needs

Older men and women require more complex medical care.


We need a safe place for women who arrive with their children.


Accessibility for people with disabilities is a priority.


Personal development and relationship support are key for well-being.

Update August 2020: Great news!  More Room for Hope is happening!

We have been thrilled with the heartfelt community response to the needs in Samaritan House, one of ICCS’s 12 programs.  Recently, the project took a grand leap ahead. Through a collaboration between BC Housing, the City of Nanaimo and partners, a commitment was made to create up to 300 units of new, affordable and supportive housing – including a new Samaritan House – bringing even more “room for hope” than we had initially imagined.

BC Housing has purchased a new, larger lot and will begin the process of working with us and the community to design and build a new facility. This facility will incorporate an enhanced shelter space for women which will follow a new “Bridge to Housing” approach which is similar to how we have operated Samaritan House, supporting the most vulnerable women on their own journey to stable and healthy living. Also included in this new facility will be 40-50 units of supportive housing. A teaching kitchen, dining room, and other program spaces will ensure that we are able to support each person’s individual needs and work together build a stable and supportive community.  Island Crisis Care Society will remain the operator of Samaritan House. This means that we will continue to drive the programming decisions and, due to the generosity of our More Room for Hope donors, will have the ability to ensure that the new Samaritan House has the capacity to meet the needs of our clients in tangible ways.

This is what more space will mean:


Bedrooms that could be used for shelter or supportive housing.

Planned Spaces

Thoughtfully planned spaces that will reduce crowding and increase opportunities for learning.


Environmental and accessible design that will increase safety and improve community.


Added space that would include better storage to organize supplies, materials and resources.

Access to Services

Meeting rooms so health workers can meet privately with clients.

Staff Well-Being

A staff room that will allow employees and volunteers to have a break from the high paced life inside this busy front line facility.

The former Samaritan House.

Our work aims to ensure that fewer people are turned away and forced to live on the street in unsafe conditions—in parks, back alleys, and empty lots. For these people, hope can’t wait!

“You’ve made a difference in my life and I couldn’t have gotten through homelessness without your help. I am sober, happy and grateful.”


“Brand new to Nanaimo, bad landlord, ended up here at 2 a.m. All of my many questions answered, and staff went out of their way to provide me with contacts, directions and moral support.”


“Without Samaritan House, I’d be dead or on the streets.”