Sooke’s lack of an extreme weather shelter for the homeless is “critical” and there’s “an urgent need to start thinking about a plan B,” in the wake of the failure of the Greater Victoria Extreme Weather Protocol to find a location for a shelter, says a local politician
Coun. Jeff Bateman raised the issue at the Dec. 10 council meeting after sending an email to council. His concern were prompted by Sooke News Mirror coverage of the issue.
Bateman introduced the issue at the meeting, but quickly turned the floor over to Jen Wilde, the regional coordinator of the GVEWP.
“We have an indication of need here in Sooke,” Wilde said.
“The people who live rough here don’t have what they need in the event of extreme weather. They don’t have parkas. If people can’t stay dry, they can’t maintain their health, and they can’t maintain their own lives.”
She stressed the emergency shelter was separate from the overall issue of sheltering the homeless and informed council her agency had funding available to help supervise an extreme weather shelter, if only a site could be located for the program.
“We (the GVEWP) operate from November to the end of March and we activate about 40 times a year,” Wilde said.
“This is a response so that we don’t lose them while we are trying to figure out what to do (about the broader issue),” she added.
Mayor Maja Tait spoke about the stakeholders meeting she’d attended in September and how she’d been upset with the fact that no emergency shelter existed in Sooke.
“We’re grateful to the [Sooke] Baptist church for what they have done in the past, but now the challenge is to find a suitable space moving forward,” Tait said.
The Sooke Baptist church hosted the shelter until 2015, but B.C. Housing ended the initiative after the winter of 2015-2016 by not applying to have the shelter operate the following year.
“It wasn’t reapplied for. The program operates on an annual basis and we just didn’t apply for it the next year,” Wilde said.
“We didn’t actually have anyone accessing the shelter (the year before). There were one or two people using the shelter and we assisted them individually.”
Pastor Rick Eby noted it was B.C. housing that cancelled the arrangement with the church to house the shelter.
“We didn’t pull out. It was B.C. Housing that cancelled it,” said Eby, adding that he can’t comment on why it’s been alleged by some that it was the church that cancelled the program.
He went on to say that in light of the church’s past experience, the church attended the meeting with Tait in September and was willing to talk about resuming the shelter and what it would look like.
Those discussions have not resulted in the resumption of the program.
Sooke council appointed Coun. Ebony Logins as a liaison to the GVEWP and Logins told the Sooke News Mirror that she has been in contact with Wilde and is intent on finding a way to resolve the issue.