Sherry Thompson of the Sooke Shelter Society says that the refusal of any of Sooke’s churches or service groups to host an extreme weather shelter is putting the region’s homeless at risk. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

Sherry Thompson of the Sooke Shelter Society says that the refusal of any of Sooke’s churches or service groups to host an extreme weather shelter is putting the region’s homeless at risk. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

Lack of shelter puts Sooke homeless at risk

Shelter Society gets nothing but rejections for extreme weather shelter

Imagine for a moment that you are one of the many homeless people in Sooke.

Now imagine the temperature has dropped below freezing and winter has gripped the region.

In Sooke, there is no shelter available and you will be left to your own devices to survive.

RELATED: Shelter Society works to help homeless

It’s a situation Sherry Thompson of the Sooke Shelter Society said is unacceptable and she and a group of volunteers are working to fix the situation.

“There really hasn’t been an extreme weather shelter in Sooke since the Baptist church pulled out of providing the service a few years ago, and we’ve been unable to find another location,” Thompson said.

RELATED: Learn about the Sooke Shelter Society

The group is working with the staff of the Extreme Weather Protocol to try to address the problem.

The protocol is a community program involving various faith groups, social service agencies, fire, and police working together to provide shelter spaces during acute winter weather conditions of heavy wind, snow, rain and temperatures below 0 Celsius.

“I really don’t want to criticize the (Baptist) church, but we need to start the community talking about the situation to recognize that our perception around the homeless and our fears around homelessness are largely unfounded. Those fears are, in part, why we have the problem in the first place,” said Jen Wilde, regional coordinator of the Greater Victoria Extreme Weather Response Program.

Those fears and perceptions of the homeless were on full display during the discussions with the Baptist church.

“We approached the church again, but, after a lot of meetings, those discussions ended and the church said they weren’t prepared to take on the project,” said Thompson. “They said that they’d pray for us, but they were concerned about their children. It’s all part of the stigma that the homeless face.”

She was quick to add that not every member of the church council was against opening the church to the homeless during bad weather but that, in the end, concerns about drug and alcohol use won out over the appeals of the shelter society.

“They were willing to consider running it as a high-barrier shelter in which everyone coming in would be searched and their packs would be searched and confiscated until they left. Also, once they (the homeless) checked in, they wouldn’t be allowed to leave until the morning,” said Thompson.

That approach would run counter to the guidelines for such shelters and would severely curtail funding for the project.

Thompson explained that her group has approached other churches in the community as well as organizations such as the legion and the Sooke Community Association, but has been turned down by them all.

“It’s a real shame because I really thought we’d be allowed back into the church and put out a request (to the community) for supplies and we got them all … everything we need. But then it all fell through,” said Thompson.

The Baptist Church did not respond to requests for comment.

Mayor Maya Tait said that she had run a stakeholder’s meeting in September in an effort to find a way to address the situation.

“This situation is really unacceptable. We’re better than this. We need to work together as a community to provide something for those in need in a community as wonderful as Sooke,” said Tait.



mailto:tim.collins@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Trevor Davis, base manager of the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation in Sidney, stands in front of the Hecate Sentinal, an oil skimming vessel based at Sidney’s Van Isle Marina. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Oil spill response base taking shape on Saanich Peninsula

Enhanced base with elements in North Saanich and Sidney to be fully operational in fall 2022

The O’Meara family – (left to right) Mari, Max, Adam and Rei – spent Saturday afternoon picking out the perfect tree. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Santa’s Forest tree sale in Saanich implements one-way perusing, curbside pick up

Christmas tree, wreath sales in Braefoot Park through Dec. 24

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

(Black Press Media file)
Webinars help Greater Victoria residents affected by dementia prepare for the holidays

COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions can add additional challenges for people living with dementia

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read