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Online petition launched against Sooke homeless shelter

Rec centre will be used as an emergency space for homeless needing to self-isolate
The homeless population is at a high risk for contracting COVID-19. B.C. Housing plans to use SEAPARC Leisure Complex as an emergency space for up to 45 homeless people needing to self-isolate during the coronvirus outbreak. (Kendra Crighton - Black Press Media)

Some Sooke residents are fighting back against a plan to use SEAPARC Leisure Complex as a temporary homeless shelter by launching an online petition.

The petition, entitled Stop the tent city set up at SEAPARC Sooke, has 27 signatures, and a large number of comments debating the topic have also shown up on numerous social media sites.

The proposed shelter at the SEAPARC Leisure Complex will provide housing and allow Sooke’s homeless population the ability to self-isolate in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement for the shelter brought mixed emotions among residents, some who took to social media to share positive reinforcement towards the project, while others expressed disapproval.

“Keep our family’s and our community safe and say No to SEAPARC’s ‘TENT CITY.’ Mental health issues require far more support than just being nice,” the petition states.

“The small community of Sooke has a very limited police force, paramedic force. Limited medical. No Hospital. Only one road into the largest community. Drug addiction brings drug dealers! Learn from the past of Victoria’s Tent Citys (sic).”

RELATED: Sooke rec centre to provide self-isolation space for homeless people

Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said she was not aware of the online petition, but if residents would like to share their concerns, they can send the petition to the district.

“The community groups and supportive agencies developing this, made their plan with Sooke in mind,” Tait said. “There are so many people at the table focused on making this a success, and it’s designed specifically for Sooke’s vulnerable population. We are not bringing people in.”

The shelter will be operated by the Sooke Region Communities Health Network, in collaboration with B.C. Housing, regional health authorities and municipal governments, who have worked on developing a community response plan for the pandemic.

“This is being set up as a temporary transitional stabilization unit for those people experiencing homelessness,” said Jen Wilde, homelessness programs coordinator for the Sooke Region Communities Health Network and director of operations for the COVID-19 response isolation shelter in Sooke.

“[We are] intending to do coordinated assessments of everyone coming into the shelter, determining where they are at and what resources they need in order to be successful in self-isolating.”

Tait said normally the homeless population could have access to public facilities, such as the library, campgrounds, parks, washrooms, or any other “drop in, drop out” service, but everything is closed, and some people have nowhere else to turn.

“There isn’t anywhere to go, and the reality is that we do have a number of homeless people in our town, and we need to help everybody,” Tait said. “There has been so much background work done, and a strong foundation is in place. I think this provides an opportunity to connect these citizens with proper support once and for all.”

Wilde said before this plan was set in place, the SRCHN reached out to the Sooke homeless population, assessed what the need was in Sooke, and based its plan off that.

The emergency response centre is set to be operational until June 30, and will have the capacity to accommodate 45 people: 30 spots indoors on the arena floor, as well as 15 outdoor spaces for tents.

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