The new temporary indoor shelter to house people currently camping at Ed Macgregor Park will be ready for occupancy by July 30, the District of Sooke has confirmed.
Although the original plan was for July 20, improvements needed to the building at John Phillips Memorial Park caused the move to be delayed until the end of the month, Norm McInnis, District of Sooke CAO, said.
Mary Dunn, chair of Sooke Communities Health Network, said in a media release, the move is the result of a lot of hard work by many people.
She expressed gratitude to the Sooke Shelter Society, Sooke Food Bank, Island Health, area physicians, pharmacies, and the community at large for their efforts.
In response to community concerns, mostly regarding safety, there will be shelter staff on-site 24/7 and extra security, including cameras, thanks to funding from B.C. Housing, Dunn noted.
Many of the concerns have been alleviated during the past month when the homeless transitioned from SEAPARC Leisure Complex to Ed Macgregor Park, as people in the community gained a better understanding of the challenges and barriers faced by Sooke’s small homeless community, Dunn said.
“They got to know those camping in the park and got to know some of the reasons why their life has taken some of the turns it has – they have more empathy.”
Sooke RCMP Staff Sgt. Brett Sinden said the RCMP has been working with the individuals in the community for some time and have not had to respond to any significant calls at SEAPARC or Ed Macgregor Park.
The early days of the pandemic brought together vulnerable individuals at SEAPARC, which provided them with access to food and medical attention. That enabled them to get the help they need because access workers knew where to find them, Sinden said in a media release.
The availability of wraparound services is critical from a community safety perspective because it mitigates the need to engage in illegal activities that affect others negatively, Sinden said.
Two meals a day will be provided at the new shelter as well as access to all of the services that were provided at SEAPARC.
Dunn said no single factor led vulnerable residents to the shelter, although the COVID pandemic moved the issue of homelessness in Sooke to the forefront.
“Yet while their stories, ages, genders, and backgrounds may all be different, one thing is a constant at the shelter,” Dunn said.
“We accept people where they’re at currently. When they know, there is that care, and their basic needs are going to be met, that stability means they can look three to four weeks down the road rather than hour to hour.”