Is Salt Spring Island Community Services serving Salt Spring Island?

In its 2020-21 Annual Report, Salt Spring Island Community Services (SSICS) describes its then new relationship with the SeaBreeze Inne as follows:

“Homelessness services expanded from providing a seasonal to year-round Emergency Shelter and stretched into a different model to adjust to the pandemic by adding the Seabreeze Inne as a shelter site.” (Excerpt from “Message from the SSICS Leadership”.)

“Due to the challenges of the pandemic the emergency shelter had to operate at a reduced capacity and could shelter only seven individuals at any time. Community Services worked with BC Housing and the Sea Breeze Inne to provide temporary housing to 35 individuals. Staff provided supported living services to the individuals at the Sea Breeze Inne enabling them to stabilize, improve their basic living skills and connect with others. (Excerpt from “Emergency Shelter/Seabreeze Inne”.)

Clearly, SSICS, saw the SeaBreeze as an emergency shelter providing temporary housing caused by COVID. Well done.

So, how has SSICS’s position and actions regarding the SeaBreeze changed.

In August, BC Housing issued a press release regarding the Seabreeze. It laid out a clear plan for the people housed at the SeaBreeze and for permanent supported housing on SSI. BCH planned, that upon completion of Kings Lane, the “temporary Seabreeze Inne residents” would be moved there. Then, when Drake Road is completed, residents would be moved into “new permanent homes or to other housing options, depending on individual need”.

The press release lays out a clear path towards permanent housing for many vulnerable people on SSI, most immediately, those individuals housed at the SeaBreeze.

SSICS responded to BCH’s press release with a letter to the AG/Minister of Housing (SSICS website: News) in which it makes several statements that demonstrate a dramatic change in its position regarding the SeaBreeze residents.

Throughout the letter SSICS uses the term “tenants” to describe the residents at the SeaBreeze contrary to its published statements in their Annual Report, that they were individuals being temporarily housed in an emergency shelter necessitated by COVID.

The letter confirms that prior to the LMHF purchase, residents were there on “a month-to-month” basis. At the time of purchase, the LMHF also confirmed with the vendor that there were no contracts with any individual or organization, including SSICS or BCH.

The SSICS letter goes on to claim that the “tenancy is covered by the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA)” and sets out a variety of procedures under the RTA that they feel should be afforded residents of the SeaBreeze. However, it provides no support for this assertion and ignores Section 4(f) of the RTA which states that; “This Act does not apply to… (f) living accommodation provided for emergency shelter or transitional housing.”

Most significantly, SSICS suggests that the relocation of the residents from the SeaBreeze should be paused until the Residential Tenancy Branch considers the matter (not scheduled until December, 2022) or individual residents enter into “mutually acceptable terms with the Landlord” (presumably regarding the payment of compensation).

Pausing the relocation of any residents out of the SeaBreeze until after the December hearing, will put those residents back into the position of potentially being homeless in winter. Isn’t that where this whole thing started? Trying to make sure that no one was made homeless.

SSICS is contracted by BCH to administer housing support on SSI and was responsible for securing the SeaBreeze as a temporary emergency shelter. Now however, SSICS states that the residents they put into an emergency shelter are tenants.

In its letter to the AG/Minister, SSICS indicates that there are residents of the SeaBreeze unaffiliated with SSICS or BCH, that were living at the now closed motel on a month-to-month basis. When leasing the motel from the LMHF, BCH agreed to assume responsibility for all of the residents and in its press release confirmed that it would be providing housing for all of the SeaBreeze residents at Kings Lane and beyond regardless of their circumstances.

The suspicion that residents of the Seabreeze are being coached to resist efforts to smoothly move out of the Seabreeze seems almost a certainty and that the coaching is originating from SSICS. This coaching is consistent with their letter to the AG/Minister, contrary to its public statements and the position of BCH.

SSICS has clearly changed its position regarding SeaBreeze residents. The temporary emergency shelter individuals that they put into the SeaBreeze they now claim are tenants of a landlord that they never identify. Rather than support the clear plans announced by BCH and work with the residents towards a smooth transition, they are coaching them into believing that they are not being considered or taken care by the community. And they are doing without providing them with any supporting evidence and doesn’t appear to have sought a legal opinion itself before promoting their position to the vulnerable individuals in our community that they are entrusted to care for. The individuals over whom they hold tremendous power….the power to provide or not provide housing.

At the end of its letter to the AG/Minister Responsible for Housing, SSICS states: “There need [be] no winners or losers, and no villains or victims.” (SSICS Website: News)

We all hope that the resolution for the SeaBreeze residents and the community will be a positive one. Regardless of the ultimate resolution for the SeaBreeze residents, because of the way SSICS has handled this matter and the way it is treating the individuals entrusted to its care, everyone may loose. The relocation to Kings Lane may be unnecessarily delayed. The residents at the SeaBreeze are and may continue to live under a cloud of uncertainty. Others in our community needing housing support may have to wait longer to see if there is room for them, after the SeaBreeze residents are ultimately housed. The LMHF has already been delayed in starting its healthcare housing project and may be further delayed potentially jeopardizing the health and wellness of the entire community. The LMHF has also been forced to incur legal expenses arising from SSICS position and its coaching of residents.

Since the SeaBreeze was created as a temporary emergency shelter during COVID, the residents have relied upon SSICS for their housing security and perhaps other services. SSICS knows, or should know, the important relationship created between their organization and the individuals they provide critical life services to. It must be mindful of the tremendous power it holds over the individuals it serves and as such, needs to act with great care, compassion and in the best interest of those individuals.

In this instance, how has the actions of SSICS benefited the individuals residing at the SeaBreeze or the community? Immediate housing and food security is now available for everyone at the SeaBreeze with permanent housing underway.

A great deal of information about the SeaBreeze and its residents is in the public domain. More than would be expected. It has provided the community with unique insight into what has been happening. The actions of SSICS beg the questions: Is SSICS really serving the best interests of the individuals it directly serves, the community and BCH? Are similar things happening in other areas where SSICS provides services and what impact is that having on the individuals received support and the community?

Pat Swan

September 16, 2022 11:26 AM

  • Nigel Page says:

    What's happened to Salt Spring? When did all these Karens move here?

  • Ian McQuade says:

    What are Karen's?

  • Ian McQuade says:

    Housing First?
    More transperancy and accountability a must.
    Is the Housing First building downtown Ganges(Formerly SALT SPRING SENIORS CENTRE)) servicing the community or Transient Youth? Another SSICS
    decision without input from Seniors community.
    Actions speak louder than words!.

  • Wow…Pats finger must be sore from all that pointing!

    Guess it all boils down to…which executive director isn’t doing their job? Roberta or Rob?

  • Steve L says:

    With his rental housing crisis on Salt Spring, what's happened here is devastating on many levels.
    For many of those Salt Spring residents who have thought of helping the crisis to offer/create longterm rental opportunity, and/or have never rented long-term before, or are on the fence - this will make many of them (us) never ever rent long-term for fear of tenants never leaving for justifiable cause and tenants resorting to all kinds of legal avenues. No thanks - and I worry this is going to have many unintended consequences for the very people that need long-term accommodation on the island.

  • Linda James says:

    I can't help but agree with Pat for the most part.

    Although I really don't know who is doing what behind the curtain, there doesn't seem to be a valid reason for the delay in moving.

    My husband & I supported the King's Lane bridge housing project.

    I now wonder if there was any point in the whole exercise.

    How will we rescue our badly needed housing solution for healthcare workers in a timely manner?

    The whole thing makes me sad.

    Linda James
    Kings Lane

  • Ian McQuade says:

    He wasn't pointing fingers. Only shedding light and creating transparency on an organization not filling its legal/financial obligation to
    a community it was trusted to serve.

  • While completely omitting the fact that lady Minto hospital foundation was the landlord and did not act in good faith.