After Such Progress, Do We Face Big Shelter Challenges?
Only nine joined us to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman to this ASK Salt Spring gathering in the Library Program Room. While it is likely that it was the unpredicted sunny weather that enticed folks away, could it be interpreted as Salt Springers’ contentment with CRD-related issues?
After our Territorial Acknowledgement, Gary took some time to discuss some of the issues that are on his mind. He spoke of the fast-approaching Firehall referendum, expected to be a mail-in ballot with a currently proposed deadline by the end of June.
Gary reiterated what we learned when the fire folks were our ASK Salt Spring guests (https://www.saltspringcommunityalliance.org/post/want-to-talk-about-a-new-firehall-for-salt-spring), specifically that this firehall is significantly smaller than the one proposed in the previous failed referendum. He reminded us that:
The cost for this firehall will only go up if again rejected,
interest rates are also likely to increase, and
the Fire District has committed that a Yes vote will not require a tax increase.
Due to changes in federal guidelines, Community Works (Gas Tax) funds can now be used for firehalls. Gary repeated his commitment to use some of our Gas Tax funds to support the new firehall if voters approve the referendum. CRD is also negotiating a purchase agreement with the Fire District for the Ganges firehall in order to keep the property in public hands, repurposed for a public market.
Gary also spoke briefly of the proposed Local Community Commission (LCC), comprised of four commissioners elected at large, to work with the Electoral Director to make CRD decisions in regularly scheduled, public meetings.. Some of these decisions would be determining tax rates for local services, allocation of grant in aid and gas tax funds, and the development of policies (all now effectively made by the CRD Director). An LCC also offers the possibility of consolidating local CRD services, particularly the four island-wide advisory commissions, under one elected body,
A discussion paper outlining this proposed LCC has been drafted, and CRD staff has reviewed it to ensure that it fits Provincial Local Government Act requirements. Gary is currently establishing a LCC Advisory Committee composed of two community members at large and the chairs of the four major CRD Commissions (Liquid Waste, Economic Sustainability, PARC, and Transportation) as well as representatives of the North Salt Spring Waterworks and Fire Improvement Districts. Their task will be to review this draft discussion paper, clarify the powers delegated by the CRD Board to the LCC, and provide input on the establishment bylaws that will eventually be presented to voters for approval. This advisory group will also participate in community outreach activities to inform and listen.
If all goes as planned, voters will decide about this LCC in a referendum scheduled during the October 15, 2022 local election to minimize costs. Gary warned us that there will likely be a small ongoing cost for this LCC, largely comprised of a modest renumeration for each commissioner, estimated to be between $10,000 - $15,000 each year for their four year term.
While the remaining discussion primarily concerned housing and support services for our most vulnerable residents, one participant asked Gary for his opinion on an innovative way to slow traffic, especially on northbound Fulford Ganges Road as one enters our village. It was his conclusion that it will be very hard to slow this downhill traffic sufficiently with only signs, painting, and even speed reader boards. He proposed strongly advocating for vehicle lanes that narrow at this dangerous spot, a technique that has been proven in other jurisdictions to slow traffic.
Gary indicated that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) did not support narrowing the lanes on Ganges hill when it was proposed, in part because of concerns regarding larger trucks and buses. Gary is willing to again broach the possibility of narrowed lanes for the Ganges Hill Project (projected to be complete by 2023), but he warned that further delays increase the risk of losing the funding to other jurisdictions also vying for MoTI road upgrades without the complications of the Salt Spring project.
The rest of our conversation focused upon housing. . . again! Questions about the BC Housing Drake Road supportive housing project began the conversation. While designs are not yet available, this project is moving forward quickly, with completion projected for September, 2022. In response to some concerns, a BC Housing manager had previously directed a participant to a similar BC Supportive Housing project in Parksville: (https://oceansidehomelessness.com/corfield/) Gary was asked whether our supportive housing project would have fencing and communal gardens similar to that in Parksville. While Gary did have the answer to this, he was confident that BC Housing would fully fund the amenities and supports required to meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable residents. (Note: Attached below is the latest BC Housing information bulletin on their Drake Road project, which confirms that the facility will be fenced.)
Serious concerns were expressed about the proposed relocation of the Community Services shelter to this supportive housing location. BC Housing has announced that the funding currently allocated to Community Services for its 24/7, year-round shelter accommodating approximately 30 people each night, may shift to a shelter colocated at the Drake Road location. This has raised serious community concerns, including:
The populations served in the supportive housing community are markedly-different from those served by the emergency shelter. How can a cohesive community develop when so many of the folks on any given evening are only seeking short-term emergency lodging?
Is there enough water to serve the significantly-increased number using the Drake Road Property if the shelter were moved there as well?
Will BC Housing continue the hard-fought year-round, 24/7 shelter hours if it is moved to Drake Road?
What will happen to the Community Service shelter if it loses its funding?
While Gary did not have all the answers to these shelter concerns, we learned that he, Rob Grant, (Executive Director of Community Services), and MLA Adam Olsen are scheduled to meet soon to strategize on an approach to BC Housing concerning this potentially very serious issue. Stay tuned. . . .
We had some good news: We learned that negotiations between Vancity, holders of the Land Bank mortgage, and Community Services are going well, and that the Land Bank properties may avoid the court foreclosure process, acquired by Community Services instead. (These Land Bank properties include two currently-rented houses, called Grandmas’s House and Dean Road Home, as well as the seven-acre Bracket Springs property, on Rainbow Road.) The two homes, perhaps with some upgrades, are immediately useable. While the Bracket Springs property offers an amazing potential for affordable housing, it also presents challenges including a number of potentially-derelict homes already there, the need for a water treatment system for an apparently ample well water, a septic system, land preparation, and the construction of homes.
Despite the challenges, this is very good news for many who have watched with sadness the potential of Bracket Springs languish for many years.
The rest of our time together was focused on the proposed Warming Space. We had learned quite a bit about the proposed spot for our most vulnerable to eat, socialize, and get some of the mental health and addiction support they need at an ASK Salt Spring gathering last month: (https://www.saltspringcommunityalliance.org/post/whatever-is-a-warming-space).
At that time, proponents asked to meet directly with Gary. Happily, all involved met recently in a collaborative circle to better understand all sides of the issue. Also, Gary and some leaders of this initiative were going to meet again after our ASK Salt Spring gathering on Friday. Gary continues to maintain that, if this Warming Space were located on CRD property, an organization should step forward to take responsibility for it and to apply for appropriate park permits and insurance. Once this is accomplished, he is willing to advocate for more flexible enforcement and/or bylaws, consider grant in aid support, and explore less costly CRD-issued insurance.
We learned that the emergency need for a warm space has dissipated as the weather improves, but that a gathering space for our most vulnerable is still desperately needed. Supporters of the Warming Space have submitted a proposal to CRD legal staff in Victoria and are awaiting a response. They are also spending a great deal of time clarifying what is needed immediately as well as planning for next winter.
In addition to the many who were helped in the Warming Space, a strong group of enthusiastic support has emerged as a result of the traumatic evictions of our winter season. They are currently focusing on establishing peer mental health services, creating a centrally-located social gathering place, and acquiring a mobile (recreational vehicle) community kitchen.
Gary reiterated his willingness to help as soon as a group accepts responsibility, reminding us that he has allocated over $30,000 in grants in aid to various community groups who help support our vulnerable populations.
As 1:00 approached, it was suggested that, while Salt Spring has services for those who obey the rules, we do not have a system of services for those whose issues make it very difficult for them to fit into more traditional support structures. We were briefly introduced to the Harm Reduction Model (https://harmreduction.org/about-us/principles-of-harm-reduction/) designed to support addicted folks who simply do not fit into existing systems. We learned that the Victoria-based Umbrella Society (https://www.umbrellasociety.ca) and the Vancouver-based Lookout Society (https://lookoutsociety.ca/about-us/) have an impressive track record of working successfully with these challenged populations. The hope was expressed that we could entice these successful societies to begin offering their programs here as well.
While the number of participants was lower than normal, all agreed that the conversation had been rich, thanking Gary for coming to be with us every month, listening, and working hard to address a wide variety of the complex issues we face. (Thanks, Gary!)
Please join us Friday, April 15, 11-1, in the Library Program Room to welcome Islands Trustee Laura Patrick.
Following all gathering protocols, please understand that it is also your decision about the safety of gathering While we hope to see you at the Library Program Room, we also understand if you decide to stay home until it is warm enough to meet outdoors in the United Church Meadow.
And. . .if you join us, dress warmly as we hope to open up the wall of glass
to further enhance our safety.
What do you want to ask her?
What are the 2022-23 Trust Council initiatives?
What are some of the issues before our Local Trust Committee?
What is happening with Islands Trust’s Ganges Village Plan and Housing Task Forces?
Can you tell us about the Ecosystem Protection project?
What progress has been made on the engagement process for the Trust Policy Statement?
And. . . .?
See you Friday, April 15, 11-1, at the Library Program Room to welcome Laura!
Any question, anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings?
Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.
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