On Salt Spring Island, where accommodation has always been scarce, an aging small hotel is at the center of a crisis.
Community Services on Salt Spring Island desperately needs the 18-bedroom Seabreeze Inne to continue housing the 20 vulnerable people who emerged from tents in the bush and streets during the pandemic.
But the island’s only hospital, Lady Minto, wants the Seabreeze to house its staff, as it struggles to fill 31 vacancies – from cleaning staff and cooks to technicians and nurses – on an island where vacant dwellings are “simply non-existent”. “
BC Housing rents hotel rooms on a three-month basis since COVID started, but the deal expires on December 31 and Seabreeze owner Bob Ma has decided to sell.
The province did not make an offer to purchase the Seabreeze, as it did with three hotels in Victoria. The Lady Minto Hospital Foundation therefore stepped in by offering to purchase the Seabreeze for $ 4 million in response to its urgent need for additional staff to help protect its current workforce from âburnâ. -out âand retain the hotel as a community housing asset. The hotel owner has also considered offers for sale to hoteliers.
âIt’s at a tipping point in terms of personnel,â said Roberta Martell, executive director of the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation. âA person finishes their shift and there is no one to take over. Some stay. Some come on their days off. But there is burnout and some give up and that should be a concern for everyone on Salt Spring Island.
The island has a population of around 12,000, which swells by the thousands during the summer season. The hospital also serves the surrounding Gulf Islands.
Martell said the sale depends on inspections and approval from foundation members to pull out about $ 2.5 million from its endowment, and a fundraising campaign to raise an equal or greater amount. to complete the purchase, as well as repairs and remodeling. Martell said the foundation was waiting for Salt Spring Community Services to take the first step before buying. She said he also extended the potential signing deal until mid-February, hoping that would give the province and Community Services time to find alternative spaces.
She said the foundation had met with BC Housing, Community Services, politicians and representatives from Islands Trust on the role it could play in the Seabreeze transition.
Rob Grant, executive director of Salt Spring Community Services, accused BC Housing of dropping the ball. “[B.C. Housing] has been aware of this for over a year, âGrant said. âWe knew it was an upcoming train wreck. They sat on their hands.
Community Services has had approximately 20 residents in the Seabreeze for over a year, paying the owner between $ 1,200 and $ 1,600 per month for each room, some with kitchens.
Grant said they expected BC Housing to continue providing accommodation, as it did in Victoria when Mayor Lisa Helps said everyone would be safe during the pandemic . “But now he will be back on the streets with no housing,” he said.
The original Salt Spring shelter in Ganges is full with a waiting list.
The Capital Regional District owns land on Drake Road, between an affordable housing development and a primary school, which islanders say would be a good site for the hospital’s foundation housing plans.
“There is a potential for a win-win situation if the hospital foundation considers ownership of the CRD, which is already zoned for multi-family dwellings and has an adequate water supply for more than 30 units,” Hannah said. Brown, resident of Salt Spring Island. an email. “This property is better suited to housing hospital staff and can provide more units than the Seabreeze.”
But Martell said the foundation had neither the funds nor the expertise to build homes.
BC Housing said it recognizes there is a need for safe and secure housing for those at risk or experiencing homelessness on Salt Spring Island.
âWe are currently exploring options and doing due diligence to determine the most appropriate and cost effective solution for the community to ensure that no one is displaced. “