Back in December the Sooke News Mirror ruffled a few feathers when we gave you the story about the lack of an extreme weather shelter in Sooke.
The story evoked a blizzard of responses, but unfortunately most of those comments tended to centre on who was to blame for the situation.
You’ll recall that the Sooke Baptist Church had hosted the service, but B.C. Housing chose to discontinue the shelter, saying that it didn’t have enough use to justify its continuation.
Let’s be clear – that was not the church’s fault.
What was apparent, though, was that a shelter was desperately needed and that we were heading into our third year without extreme weather help for the community’s most vulnerable – the homeless.
Those charged with the responsibility to deal with the situation seemed ineffective in getting a shelter back. Anywhere.
Enter Mike Hicks, the good people at Our Place, and in the Juan de Fuca.
Hicks, the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director, saw the situation, and, never being shy about tackling problems head on, asked why the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area building couldn’t be used. The building has a 1,000-square-foot meeting room, its warm and dry and has a couple of bathrooms.
Our Place stepped up to staff the site and provide the necessary mats, equipment, food, and its usual compassion.
And when the location of the shelter was questioned (it’s a long walk from downtown Sooke), Our Place took the initiative to address the situation with a shuttle service.
It was a simple and elegant solution.
The necessary paperwork took a week to complete and the shelter opened to the homeless Friday night, just before what might have been a killing snowstorm and a period of frigid weather.
Our Place coordinator, Linda McLean, sent us some photos of the shelter on the night it opened and one of them featured Hicks trying out one of the sleeping mats, with a big grin on his face.
That picture summed it up. Hicks saw a problem, imagined a solution and made it happen. He also was there to welcome the clients of the shelter on an evening when most of us were seeking the shelter of our own homes. He got down on the ground and tried out the mats in a gesture that said, “We’re all the same.”
Both Hicks and Our Place deserve credit and our thanks. They probably saved some lives, and that’s not a small thing.