CRD mulls converting old Oak Bay care-home into temporary homeless shelter
VICTORIA -- Local government officials are considering converting a vacant long-term care home in Oak Bay into a temporary homeless shelter amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Residents of the Oak Bay Lodge are moving out of the long-term care home in the coming days and are moving into a new facility in Victoria called the Summit.
So, with the Oak Bay building soon to be empty, consideration is being given to turning it into a temporary homeless shelter.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps introduced a motion Wednesday to the CRD Board of Directors to have its staff look into having the space used as a shelter for the region’s homeless and as a potential COVID-19 hospital should a second wave of the pandemic strike the island.
“There is a vacant building with 238 spaces,” Helps noted Thursday. “And there’s approximately 200 homeless people in the region so we all need to do our part.”
Helps’ motion passed unanimously, including with a vote of support from Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch.
On Thursday, Murdoch noted that the vote was simply to have staff explore the idea, and is very preliminary in the process.
He said he welcomes having discussions on the topic of using the building as a shelter, but adds that he thinks it’s not an ideal location. Murdoch says there are concerns over the building’s location, which is close to Willows Elementary School and even closer in proximity to Oak Bay High School, which also houses a daycare.
“That site presents a number of issues, frankly,” said Murdoch. “Not least is the state of the building and the fact that there’s a daycare and high school immediately adjacent.”
He also said that since the news of the care-home potentially becoming a shelter was publicized, he has heard from many folks in the community that they are concerned about the potential plan.
"The lion’s share of the response has been, 'Tread very carefully if you’re going to put it there,'" he said.
Island Health has already indicated that the building isn’t a fit for a COVID-19 hospital.
In the long term, the building will be torn down and the site will be redeveloped
In the short term, CRD staff will consult with BC Housing to see whether it wants to lease the space and what its views are on its viability as a shelter.
Staff are then expected to come back — likely in August — with recommendations on the feasibility of the idea.