As Salt Spring’s CRD director Gary Holman stated publicly last week, the fate of several people living at the Seabreeze Inne is “top of mind” in the community.
Reduction of Salt Spring’s rental housing stock is something that has happened gradually, on a family-by-family basis, with the impact only truly visible when initiatives like Salt Spring Solutions’ Goodbye Salt Spring project bring it all together, or when one’s favourite coffee shop is closed due to a staff shortage; or when we hear that Lady Minto Hospital has 31 staff vacancies.
With the Seabreeze situation, the reality is more stark: 18 people who are currently housed at the inne could be homeless in two months’ time. That’s a lot of individuals affected at one time. It’s good that the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation extended its possession date for acquiring the motel and therefore the amount of time for residents to be re-housed, but it’s still not a lot of time and the options are limited. Ideally the foundation would provide even more time for solutions to be found.
A proposal made by Holman to house Seabreeze tenants temporarily on CRD-owned property on Drake Road is one possible bright light. The property will eventually be used for a newly built affordable housing project, funded by BC Housing. That use has long been envisioned since the lands were donated for that purpose by School District 64 many years ago.
Unfortunately, use of that property to help alleviate homelessness both now and in the past has not been supported by CRD staff. That’s why Holman last week took the concept directly to the Capital Region Housing Corporation, which consists of the usual CRD board members just wearing a different hat. The possibility will at least be investigated now.
It is easy to be discouraged about the lack of concrete housing progress on Salt Spring when compared to the effort being expended to make changes. As long-time housing advocate Cherie Geauvreau told the Driftwood recently, “There’s lots of movement, but nothing is happening.”
But Geauvreau is definitely not giving up, and if more community members, CRD staff and board directors can accept that they can and should contribute to solutions, we may yet be surprised by positive outcomes on the housing front.