Is Salt Spring Island Community Services serving Salt Spring Island?

   

You may have seen this headline from a contributed editorial by Pat Swan, supporting the position of the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation (LMHF) on the Salt Spring Exchange on Friday September 16th.

There has been a small but steady flow of commentary expressing dissatisfaction with Salt Spring Island Community Services (SSICS) regarding our perceived role in the challenges that the LMHF is encountering with the Seabreeze Inne. This has escalated of late.

As a supporter of SSICS, we believe you have the right to hear the facts and background information absent from allegations put forward in this and other pieces published recently over the Drake Road / Seabreeze Inne / Kings Lane supportive housing issue. We feel compelled to respond to the questions that have been posted publicly regarding the integrity and actions of the agency.

This information is sent to our list of supporters and posted here on our website where it is open to any of your comments and questions.  We will do our best to clarify anything requested and to provide background or rationale for any concerns or questions submitted.  Comments to this post will be moderated and all civil, constructive and respectful questions and comments will appear, whether or not they align with our position. 

Q What is the role of Salt Spring Island Community Services (SSICS) at the Seabreeze Inne?

A

SSICS has connected individuals to secure room rentals, provided support to individuals through our community-based Housing First team, and approached BC Housing to fund some rooms (first 6 then expanding to 8).  In terms of tenancy status, SSICS was a connector for people and did not participate in any tenancy or program agreements. This was done while Seabreeze continued to operate as a commercial motel and maintained monthly rentals of their own with individuals with no connection to SSICS or BC Housing.  

The SSICS role expanded in March 2022 when we were asked by BC Housing to provide daily operations management on their behalf. BC Housing and LMHF reached an agreement whereby BC Housing would lease the property which had been newly acquired by LMHF.  This increased the on site presence of SSICS and services were opened up to all individuals living at the Seabreeze.  

That arrangement has now concluded and SSICS no longer has a role at the Seabreeze Inne other than providing supports for the people we serve who reside there.

Please see the History for a detailed timeline of events leading up to the present situation at the Seabreeze Inne.

Please see the Gulf Islands Driftwood for the latest updates.

Q What interest does SSICS have in whether the residents move to Kings Lane or stay at the Seabreeze Inne?

A

SSICS has no legal standing or stake in the issue. We continue to support the people we serve no matter where they reside. We have an interest in supporting people to secure healthy and stable housing that suits their needs. 

Many residents have been presented with the option to move to Kings Lane and some have toured the accommodations and will make decisions based on their own reasons. We have not advised them either way.  We support their right to choose.  

Q Why has SSICS taken a position on whether the Seabreeze residents are tenants protected under the Residential Tenancy Act?

A

The reason we have taken a position is because we have faced great pressure from other players to use our relationship and perceived influence to convince all of the residents that they need to vacate the Seabreeze Inne and to expedite their move to Kings Lane.  

We examined the relevant terms of the Residential Tenancy Act and discovered that there is, in fact, clear information about tenancy rights, transitional housing, renovictions and landlord responsibilities  relevant to the Seabreeze residents. This was enough for SSICS to stand back and not participate in a plan to move people at this time.  

This was a decision about SSICS actions.  Tenants have informed themselves about their rights and several have retained legal representation.  SSICS has not been involved in that process and are satisfied that residents have both community and legal advocacy.     

Q Doesn’t section 4 (f) of the Residential Tenancy Act state that accommodation such as that occurring at the Seabreeze Inne is not covered by the Residential Tenancy Act on the basis of it being an Emergency Shelter or Transitional Housing?

A

Section 4(f) of the RTA has been quoted often as the evidence that the Seabreeze tenants are not covered under the Residential Tenancy Act.  The Section says:

What this Act does not apply to

4. This Act does not apply to…

(f)living accommodation provided for emergency shelter or transitional housing, …

Although that may sound straightforward, it is important to understand the definitions for the terms used in the Residential Tenancy Act. What matters is if the legal criteria for Emergency Shelter and/or Transitional Housing are met. 

Those are found in the Residential Tenancy Policy Guideline

Section 4 of the Act states the Act does not apply to living accommodation provided for emergency shelter or transitional housing. 

Under section 1.1 of the Residential Tenancy Regulation, “emergency shelter” includes living accommodation that is provided in relation to the COVID-19 emergency:

a) on a temporary basis,
b) free of charge to the occupant, and
c) by a person or organization that receives funding from the government for the purpose of providing that accommodation.

Some of the tenants would have fit the 3rd (c) criteria, however none of the people living at Seabreeze lived there in conditions consistent with either (a) or (b).

Likewise, none of the tenants would fall under the criterion of transitional housing as defined in the Policy Guideline.  The tenancy was never offered on a ‘temporary basis’. There was never any end date specified or discussed for the tenancies. Again, many of the tenants fit none of these criteria for transitional housing while none of them fit (a).

Under section 1 of the Residential Tenancy Regulation, “transitional housing” means:

(a) living accommodation provided on a temporary basis;
(b) by a person or organization that receives funding from a local government or the government of British Columbia or of Canada for the purpose of providing that accommodation, and;
(c) together with programs intended to assist tenants to become better able to live independently.

These definitions are fundamental to the SSICS position and what gave rise to our published letter to the Attorney General / Minister of Housing. In the letter from the SSICS Executive Director to the Attorney General / Minister of Housing in July, we called for a pause while the RTB was consulted. 

Since that time some residents have filed for a ruling. This is in direct accordance with the Act Section 59 (6) which reads:

(6) An individual occupying a room in a residential hotel may make an application for dispute resolution, without notice to any other party, requesting an interim order that this Act applies to that living accommodation.

The RTB has set a hearing date for December, 2022. Neither SSICS or the residents had any control on when that hearing was set. 

Q Is SSICS changing its story regarding the status of the Seabreeze residents from earlier published material referring to the Seabreeze Inne as an extension of the shelter in the last Annual Report?

A

The core SSICS message has consistently been that the legal rights of the Seabreeze residents needs to be a fundamental consideration. Our stance on this has been unwavering.

The Seabreeze Inne, as reported in the last Annual Report, had some rooms leased on a long-term basis to accommodate a reduced capacity at the Emergency Shelter due to the pandemic. This was a block of rooms secured on a long-term basis, not the entire Inne.  These rooms were funded through various ways including BC Housing, SSICS managed rent supplements, and the residents themselves.

Further, in November, 2021, subsequent to the publication of the Annual Report, an editorial Viewpoint in the Gulf Islands Driftwood by Rob Grant Key Housing Moves Could Make a  Difference states:

“…That property is working as stable housing for low-income individuals far better than imagined when Salt Spring Community Services initially secured long-term room rentals in April 2020. What were initially extra emergency shelter units have transitioned into homes. …” 

Q

Is SSICS “coaching” the residents of the Seabreeze to resist being moved to Kings Lane temporary housing?

A

No. What SSICS is doing is, in fact,  resisting the pressure to coach the residents to move.  SSICS has been accused of manipulating vulnerable individuals to betray their own best interest in favor of some other agenda.  SSICS is doing nothing of the sort.  

SSICS is of the opinion that a full consideration of  what is in the best interest of each individual needs to include definitive information from the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) on whether the Act applies and what process should be observed. 

SSICS does not have a stake and would have no role in any RTB process.  

We recognize that the law is an important component of this scenario for residents and an important component to guide SSICS involvement.

Q

Is Salt Spring Island Community Services serving Salt Spring Island?

A

SSICS has faithfully served the community for nearly 50 years. We currently have 43 programs across 10 areas of service that includes: the Food Bank; the Emergency Shelter and Housing First; Seniors Services; Children, Youth and Family Services; Mental Health Services; Services for Special Needs Adults and Children; and the Recycle Depot among others.

We are confident that we do our utmost to serve all those who need our supports and services. We provide services in complex situations in a complex community in a complex world and in a complex time in history. We cannot claim to always get it right. We get a handful of complaints every year and try to address any valid concerns with quality improvement.

Our organization is staffed with over one hundred skilled and committed people demonstrating impeccable ethics.

In terms of sheltering and housing community members, we will continue to provide supports for the residents no matter where they are housed.

In terms of overall social justice and community well-being we will continue to advocate for fairness and equity in all matters of human rights and the law.


Submitted Question

1. Surely the understood term of a monthly rental is one month ?
2. Why do you not mention the security of the path to brand new, purpose built, long term housing being offered by BC Housing through the Kings Lane avenue?
3. What are the Seabreeze people trying to achieve.. ? … Is it their intention to force BCHousing to buy the Seabreeze Inne from LMHF, or do they want LMHF to become their landlord? … or would SSICS like to own or operate it ?

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Reply

        1. Surely the understood term of a monthly rental is one month ?

Month-to-month is the term for a tenancy that is not for a fixed term and where rent is paid monthly.  This is referred to as a “periodic tenancy” in the Residential Tenancy Act.

        1. Why do you not mention the security of the path to brand new, purpose built, long term housing being offered by BC Housing through the Kings Lane avenue?

SSICS does not understand the Kings Lane temporary housing to be the specific path to the proposed Drake Road supported housing.

Drake Road supported housing will have it’s own selection process.  Some individuals currently residing at the Seabreeze will qualify and may be selected, and others will not qualify.  This is independent of the current BC Housing offer to have all Seabreeze residents move to Kings Lane if they so wish.

What are the Seabreeze people trying to achieve.. ? … Is it their intention to force BCHousing to buy the Seabreeze Inne from LMHF, or do they want LMHF to become their landlord? … or would SSICS like to own or operate it ?

Those are great questions to clarify misunderstandings.  Although SSICS cannot speak for Seabreeze residents as they are a diverse group with their own perspectives, we can provide our perspective. 

We have not heard any of the intentions you have stated.  The residents are a very diverse group and their intentions may vary ? Our observation is that current Seabreeze residents understand and accept that LMHF will need to evict them in the future to proceed with their renovation project. In conversations with residents we are aware that most are trying to achieve long term stable housing.  We are aware that numerous residents are actively searching for alternate housing that suits their needs.     

SSICS owning or operating the Seabreeze is not being considered.