The latest hit on an already overburdened program to shelter Salt Spring Island homeless has taken the facility used for the ‘In From the Cold’ shelter out of action temporarily.
“Salt Spring Island Community Services regrets to announce the discovery of the presence of an unhealthy level of mold in the building used by the ‘In From the Cold’ Emergency Shelter, necessitating closure of the Shelter building for the season as of March 6,” said Rob Grant, Executive Director.
A portion of the shelter service is funded by BC Housing and operates according to the provincial Extreme Weather Response Protocol, funding shelters to open on certain nights depending on temperature and precipitation. SSICS will continue to fulfil that obligation on those nights by permitting people to sleep on mats on the floor of the Yellow Sub drop in on the bottom floor of the main building.
“It isn’t a great solution and puts an additional strain on staff and programs, but it is the best we can do with what we have got. It is definitely an indication that we need a better plan and better infrastructure,” said Grant. “The shelter is over capacity most nights and the number of people without a place to sleep at night just keeps growing.”
The news comes on the heels of last month’s ‘Point-In-Time’ Count of homeless on Salt Spring Island, a national initiative that SSICS ‘Housing First’ program undertook on Salt Spring in order to have a better assessment of the homeless situation. The count found a total of 70 homeless people on Salt Spring while also gaining an understanding that the number is actually higher than that.
“We know that there are 70 people that we counted and we know that there are more out there that weren’t counted. We just don’t know how many more,” said Grant. “Losing the facility for emergency shelter before the cold weather season is over puts incredible strain on a system that is cobbled together for lack of a sufficient level of transitional and supported housing. Salt Spring is in urgent need of a more robust and resilient system for those who need housing.”
An immediate priority for SSI Community Services will be to assess and remediate the outreach building so it can be used safely once again. The building, that was the original nurses’ housing when the site was home to the original Lady Minto Hospital has seen many uses over the years and is now home to Outreach Services during the day.
For more information contact Rob Grant at 250-537-9971