Sooke is an exceptional community.
Like everywhere else, however, we have our share of domestic violence, crime, and challenges related to addiction and mental health. I’m proud that Sooke meets these challenges head-on with as much compassion, planning, and care as is realistically possible.
During this pandemic, we all have been asked to establish a “new normal.” Fear and uncertainly could have stopped us. Yet here we are in July entering Phase 3 of the B.C. Restart Plan and doing our best to follow the provincial health officer’s directives to minimize the clear and present danger of a second wave striking like a tsunami in the fall.
One of our biggest challenges as a district has been to meet Dr. Bonnie Henry’s request that local governments find a safe and secure indoor shelter for the unhoused.
Long before the pandemic, the district had been thinking outside the box in forging new relationships with community partners and leveraging existing ones to find solutions that work for everyone.
In the fall of 2017, I hosted a gathering at the Sooke Municipal Hall to forge a path forward with key stakeholders, including members of our homeless population.
This gathering resulted in the district assigning a coordinating role to the Sooke Region Community Health Network. Asked to step up big-time in March, SRCHN has done fantastic work alongside B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Sooke Shelter Society, the Sooke Food Bank, and other support groups in working with our homeless population.
Despite a few hiccups, the SEAPARC shelter solution worked exceptionally well for two months.
Now we have secured another short-term indoor shelter for approximately 17 campers – the majority of them part of the bubble that formed at our recreation centre and moved, of their own volition and without notice as is their right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to Ed Macgregor Park when shelter beds are unavailable.
The district, the RCMP, SRCHN, and B.C. Housing have all responded quickly and professionally to the changing scenario. Located on a private piece of land, the new space is currently being renovated before the anticipated July 20 move-in. Every person will get their bed and have access to washroom facilities.
Predictably enough, “fake news” has been circulating locally. The residents were not “kicked out” of SEAPARC; they had to move on because the recreation centre was slowly reopening. Nobody, not once, considered moving campers into Broomhill Playground Park. There has been no influx of the homeless from elsewhere, and we’ve worked exclusively with our homeless population. B.C. Housing is covering all costs with not a penny coming from municipal taxes.
This process has been “Made in Sooke, for Sooke, by Sooke.”
Frankly, I’m amazed, moved, and, as I said at the outset, truly proud of what’s been accomplished to date. We in Sooke have big hearts, and we take care of our own. If you have further concerns and questions, please contact the Sooke Municipal Hall or read the updates and detailed FAQ answers at www.sooke.ca.
Maja Tait is the District of Sooke mayor.