Rental housing shortage a life and death issue for one islander

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By Elizabeth White, Michael Cooke, Pat Miller and Lisa Dahling

Salt Spring’s lack of affordable rental housing is a fact of life for Salt Spring renters, but for those fortunate to own our own homes, it is a detail of island living that is easy to forget. 

We ignore, or do not know, that workers shuttle daily to Salt Spring from the big island, that many working farms harbour “non-compliant” dwellings — trailers, converted sheds, yurts, tiny homes — and that families consider themselves lucky if they can rent one of these, or can find somewhere to park a trailer or tiny home they already own. We hear stories of islanders leaving Salt Spring because they cannot find a place to rent.

What happens if you are disabled, cannot leave Salt Spring because your support network is here, and there is no place to rent? This is Sharon Shewchuk’s dilemma. The cabin Sharon has lived in for four years is being reclaimed by her landlord and Sharon must find a new home. The Salt Spring resident of 13 years, and operator of Salt of the Earth Farm, has suffered a relapse in her longstanding Multiple Systemic Infectious Disease Syndrome (also known as Lyme disease) that has left her with reduced mobility and impaired vision — she is currently unable to read a book or use a computer. 

Her immune system is also compromised, resulting in multiple chemical sensitivities that make assisted living options untenable. In other words, severe allergies prevent her from living at Braehaven or Croftonbrook, or in a hotel room or apartment. There are treatments available, and one of the few benefits of COVID-19 has been the new availability of online medical consultations. However, the prerequisite for successful treatment is a living space that does not trigger allergic reactions. Sharon needs an electrically heated, mould-free cabin, away from traffic pollution.

Anyone can become disabled. Sharon comments, “As an able-bodied person, I above all prized independence, industriousness and self-sufficiency.” She still values those qualities, and is also deeply appreciative of the help she has received from islanders since her relapse. Sharon turned 48 this month. She is bright, funny, multi-talented, as independent as her condition allows, and she wants to live. A suitable living space is fundamental to her recovery. 

Is there someone on Salt Spring willing to rent Sharon an electrically heated cabin where she can successfully complete her course of treatments and achieve remission? If you have a cabin that you would consider renting to Sharon, please call Elizabeth White at 250-537-2616.

This piece is submitted on behalf of Sharon Shewchuk’s support group.

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