A new dedicated team is taking a fresh approach to address Sooke’s homelessness problem.
The Sooke Homelessness Coalition is creating a community action team to establish positive relations with the Sooke Shelter at the Hummingbird Centre (formerly the Hope Centre) and address arising issues and concerns.
Jeff Bateman, a Sooke district councillor who serves on the Sooke Homelessness Coalition, said the first order of business is to create the advisory team in collaboration with the community.
The 11-member committee will include two community members, two Sooke Shelter Society representatives, one Sooke Bylaw representative, two District of Sooke councillors, one person with lived experience, and representatives from the T’Sou-ke Nation, Scia’new First Nation and Pacheedaht First Nation.
Bateman said the committee functions as an advisory group rather than a decision-making body, and it can offer guidance on any issue that is presented to it.
B.C. Housing typically sets up community advisory committees in evry community with a government-funded homeless shelter. The Crown corporation suggested the coalition take over the community advisory role after two unsuccessful attempts, but the coalition is attempting a third time.
“There is a need to create something,” Bateman said.
Mayor Maja Tait said the advisory committee will provide unique perspectives and insights distinct from those provided by the coalition or the Sooke Shelter Society, and could result in a more robust advocacy package to submit to the provincial government.
An estimated 200 people live without homes in the region, although some, such as the Sooke Sheltter Society, say the figure is much higher. The shelter society offers 17 shelter spaces for those in the community experiencing homelessness.