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‘No hope in sight’: West Shore can no longer distance itself from homelessness, say advocates

Advocates say the West Shore needs more support and likely a shelter
The Salvation Army Connection Point Resource Centre in Langford is one of the few resources for homeless people on the West Shore. (Black Press Media file)

At 70 years old, Jimmy didn’t expect to be camping in a friend’s backyard. But after being forced to leave his room in a Langford house, that’s where he found himself.

Jimmy (whose last name has been left out due to privacy concerns) spent six months in a tent during the sweltering summer months of 2022.

He grew up in Victoria, then moved out to East Sooke, spending 30 years learning from master carvers and working as an artist. But when he broke his leg two years ago – which required a metal plate to be put in – Jimmy had to move into Langford, as the bus service in rural East Sooke was lacking. He moved into a room in a house that a friend was renting, but after a few months, the landlord announced they were selling the house and that Jimmy had 30 days to be gone.

Despite all that, Jimmy considers himself one of the lucky ones because he was only homeless for six months. He recently got into the Capital Regional District assisted living building in Langford.

“These young people – 35 years old – Jesus, there’s no hope in sight for them to speak of … the job situation and everything is so expensive.”

The most recent point-in-time count from the CRD, conducted on March 8, 2020, found there were at least 1,523 people experiencing homelessness that night.

Of those, 620 were living unsheltered (in tents, outside or in a car), with 888 living in some form of temporary accommodation, like couch surfing (145), in halfway houses or a treatment facility (198) or transitional housing (545), while 15 were unaccounted for.

The most recent province-wide numbers indicate the number of people who are homeless may have dipped slightly in 2020 compared to 2019. According to those numbers, published in November 2022 by the Ministry of the Attorney General, 23,400 people experienced homelessness in B.C. in 2020 versus 23,600 in 2019.

But that slight drop isn’t necessarily seen in Greater Victoria, where shelters and resources are scrambling to keep up with demand. On the West Shore, resources are even more limited than in downtown Victoria.

While West Shore RCMP doesn’t keep a file count of calls they’ve had about homeless people. Police spokesperson Cpl. Nancy Saggar says there has been an uptick in recent months.

“In the last month, there has been a small increase in the number of files regarding homeless people,” she said. “The majority of the calls are reports of homeless person(s) found in bank lobbies after hours or loitering outside a business. This is all over the West Shore - no specific area.”

The approach

Currently, the West Shore has no overnight shelters for people experiencing homelessness – with Sooke the only community to have one west of Victoria in Greater Victoria.

This means if the police get calls complaining of people loitering, they have to direct them to shelter services out of town, and will usually offer a drive to people, particularly if it’s cold or late at night, said Saggar.

“We will take them where they request as long as it’s in within reasonable distance, so anywhere in Victoria/Saanich. Duncan is unfortunately too far out of our jurisdiction and I don’t believe we have had any requests to go to Sooke.”

That policy usually doesn’t help the individuals themselves, according to David Hickman, who works at the Salvation Army Connection Point Church & Resource Centre on Goldstream Avenue in Langford.

“The West Shore has always been very quick to try to transport the individuals to Victoria because that’s where all the services are,” Hickman said. “But they’re already overwhelmed in Victoria and so, in a sense, we’re exasperating the situation if all we’re doing on the West Shore is simply continuing to push people and send people into a situation that’s already overwhelmed.”

Patrick Humble, the community ministry director at Connection Point, used to work at a shelter downtown and remembers several occasions where they had to turn people away.

“It’s awful when they appear on your doorstep, and you can’t help them and why did they send you here, but now they’re worse off,” Humble said.

In Colwood, services often are available as needed. Colwood Emergency Planning staff have arrangements with a number of church and school facilities for shelter space when warranted, according to city spokesperson Sandra Russell. She also noted Connection Point was used as a warming centre set up during the heavy snowfall in December.

Both Hickman and Humble agreed the West Shore’s support for homeless people is lacking.

“No response at this stage is terrible, it’s a response in itself,” said Humble.


Humble said one of the biggest barriers to getting homeless individuals the support they need is the stigma.

“There’s a huge disconnect right now. And they seem like they’re each other’s enemy.”

A common misconception, Hickman says, is people are being bussed in from out of town to the West Shore.

Most people Hickman and Humble encounter have family or have lived in the West Shore themselves for a while, but have been priced out of the housing market, had a relationship break down or a working a job but can’t make ends meet and leaves them living in their cars.

The story’s the same in Sooke, according to Sherry Thompson, executive director of the Sooke Shelter Society.

“Sooke is a relatively small community,” Thompson said. “So a lot of times, we will already know the people just if you’ve lived in Sooke for a long time.”

She added that the toxic drug epidemic was impacting a number of people.

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The Sooke shelter’s 20 supportive housing spots are, with a waitlist of 38 people. Work is underway to expand the shelter’s offerings to 33 supportive housing spots, plus six shelter beds and a resource centre that’ll offer access to counselling and health-care services.

Something similar to that is needed in the West Shore, according to Thompson, Hickman and Humble. But what might it look like?


Humble says a small shelter with access to counselling resources – like how the renovated facility in Sooke will look – would be ideal. Humble said it was unlikely the Salvation Army would open a second overnight shelter in the West Shore but it was something they could be involved in supporting, along with other community partners.

Making sure there are shelter spots for men and women is also important, he added.

Back in November, funding was announced for a transition house in Langford that would be run by Victoria Women’s Transition House Society. That would have two transition spaces and 48 second-stage homes for women and non-binary people fleeing domestic violence.

Humble and Hickman agreed that while not every community needs a shelter, Langford probably needs one.

Hickman said increasing the housing stock will help combat the issue.

“Salvation Army used to have this slogan, soup, soap then salvation. So a lot of these individuals who are homeless are dealing with complex life issues. They can’t really deal with those complex life issues, whether they’re mental health, family relationships, addiction, while they’re still living on the streets.”

Perhaps an easier solution to come to would be establishing a storage facility in town for homeless people to put their carts when they need to, according to Humble.

“They want a place where they can leave their buggies during the day with all their worldly possessions so that they can visit family, so they can have visits with their kids, so they can go into a place to get cleaned up to go for a job interview or to get help with a counsellor. But they can’t leave their stuff because as soon as they do, it’s tossed or it’s removed,” said Humble.

“As a community, we do have to take ownership of the reality that homelessness is part of our community,” said Hickman.

Editor’s note: this story has been updated from its original version to correct an error. Jimmy learned under a master carver and worked as a carver. We apologize for the error and any confusion it may have caused.


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