The former Speed Source Fitness building on Otter Point Road has been identified as a new shelter for Sooke’s homeless. The shelter will be ready for residents on July 20. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)

The former Speed Source Fitness building on Otter Point Road has been identified as a new shelter for Sooke’s homeless. The shelter will be ready for residents on July 20. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)

Advocacy groups seek to provide long-lasting support for Sooke’s homeless population

New space secured for Sooke homeless at former Speed Source Fitness building

Homeless advocacy groups are taking steps to provide ongoing support for Sooke’s homeless population.

Multiple agencies, including the Sooke Shelter Society, Sooke Region Communities Health Network, AVI Health, and Community Services, as well as Island Health, have found a new location providing 17 shelter spaces for those in the community experiencing homelessness.

They will move into the new location in the former Speed Source Fitness building at the end of July.

The advocacy groups have signed on to the upcoming project to provide wrap-around services such as twice-daily meals as well as physical and mental health support.

As was the case at SEAPARC Leisure Complex, the Sooke Region Communities Health Network will oversee day-to-day services provided to the residents. B.C. Housing is funding renovations of the building and on-site operations.

Sherry Thompson, president of the Sooke Shelter Society, said along with providing support at the new shelter location, the group will also continue with outreach work to help vulnerable citizens in Sooke who won’t live in the new shelter.

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The Sooke Shelter Society formed in 2017 and became a non-profit in 2018 and an official charity a year later.

The society’s role within the community and the temporary shelter projects has been to provide the homeless population with the basics – food, hygiene, health support, and clothing.

“During the in-reach program at the new shelter, I would like to start providing a life skills program, but we are still working on how that will look,” Thompson said.

The group is receiving mentoring from the Sooke Region Communities Health Network at the new shelter location, so it can better serve the community and take on an operation like this on their own.

The Sooke Shelter Society is volunteer operated, and Thompson would like to see some paid positions available, as many volunteers work full-time hours.

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The new shelter location will be operating until October, with a possibility for extension.

The shelter will provide beds for up to 17 people in pod layouts that will give occupants their own space to physical distance. Two meals, breakfast, and dinner, will be served to occupants, and there will be two support staff on-site at all times.

“Currently, we are in the process of hiring more members of our team,” said Amy Bell with Sooke Region Communities Health Network. “There will not be a full kitchen on-site, but we are collaborating with local restaurants and the food banks to meet the criteria for delicious and nutritious meals.”

Bell said many people who helped out at the SEAPARC isolation space would be returning to help out at this next project.

“The running sentiment is that they are excited to be a part of this community project to support Sooke’s homeless,” Bell said.

-With files from Kevin Laird

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