I am pleased with the news that the province has finally funded a year round shelter on Salt Spring Island.
Unfortunately, until now, the shelter has never been able to provide year round services to those in need. Previously, it opened from November to May and for the rest of the year the Island’s homeless population had to fend for themselves. With an injection of more than $700,000 the 30-bed shelter can now open overnight and mornings, but it falls short of the full day service that was requested.
The morning service is complete with access to shower and laundry facilities to provide our brothers and sisters the dignity they deserve, in addition to a roof to cover their head, food to warm their bellies, and access to the other supportive service they may need. Many of the homeless people on Salt Spring struggle with mental health and addictions challenges. Adding a variety of supports to the shelter services can help these individuals transition to stable long term housing.
I have been asked by many organizations and groups in Saanich North and the Islands to advocate on behalf of their project or service. One such organization is Salt Spring Island Community Services. They deliver a number of critical services to Salt Spring Islanders such as this emergency shelter.
Rob Grant, Executive Director of SSI Community Services, has always done a tremendous job articulating how Salt Spring struggles to provide for everyone. The Island has the largest homeless population (per capita) of any community in the province.
Providing shelter for those in need
The housing crisis on the Southern Gulf Islands is well known. Working professionals are living in their vehicles or couch surfing, displaced seniors are without a place to call home, businesses cannot find employees and at best guess, more than 150 people are living on the street, parks and forests surrounding Ganges.
The stress this is causing is more than any small community can deal with alone. For years, the community service providers have been seeking resources from the province to support a consistent and reliable shelter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.
Elected officials from all levels of government representing Salt Spring Island have supported a call for the province to properly fund a shelter. Following my election, I joined my colleagues and used the resources of my constituency office to encourage the province to make the investment.
I’m thankful for this investment and grateful to all the other elected officials, past and present, for carrying the message forward. While the investment falls short of what the community needs it is an important step in the right direction.
Finally, I raise my hands in thankfulness to the powerful work of the entire team at the Salt Spring Community Services for their love, compassion and kindness. I’m honoured to represent communities of passionate people committed to looking after each other.