Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch says that while he voted for the Oak Bay Lodge to be considered for temporary uses, the idea that it is going to be a homeless shelter is unlikely.
On Wednesday, the Captial Regional District’s board of directors passed a motion by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps to direct CRD staff work with BC Housing and Island Health and explore the possibility of using the soon-to-be-empty Oak Bay Lodge for temporary uses. That included housing the region’s unhoused or as a COVID-19 related hospital facility.
The motion came as the tenants of Oak Bay Lodge, where there are 238 beds dedicated to seniors in need of critical care, many with an advanced onset of dementia, are about to be moved into The Summit, a 320-bed care home at Blanshard and Hillside.
While Murdoch voted in favour of undertaking the review of how to use the lodge for temporary uses, he made it extra clear in a long post to his mayoral Facebook page on Thursday that he has not voted in favour of turning Oak Bay Lodge into a homeless shelter. He wanted to clarify the situation, he said, because he has received so many emails on the topic.
“I understand that Lisa Helps has confused this point in some media comments, including linking Beacon Hill Park homeless to this motion, something that was not raised in discussion on the motion, and which I feel is needlessly creating division and anxiety as the board seeks information,” Murdoch wrote Thursday.
On Friday, Murdoch said he’s not in favour of low barrier housing at the Oak Bay Lodge but still agreed it is something worth studying.
“I object to characterizing this as approval for a homeless shelter in Oak Bay when there’s is already a process underway,” Murdoch told Black Press Media.
Helps made the motion during the CAO’s quarterly report, an update on major projects.
There are a lot of complexities to the Oak Bay Lodge, Murdoch noted. The 1970-built Lodge will need to be assessed but is 15 years past its end of life, Murdoch said.
It’s not until 30 days after the last tenant moves the deed will be transferred from Island Health to the Capital Regional Hospital District. So the motion by the CRD to review temporary uses of the Lodge would be done by the CRHD, which is a separate entity.
And key in that, Murdoch says, is that housing is not a CRHD mandate. that would be under the Captial Regional Housing Corporation, which is not part of this process.
If there was an argument to be made for using the Lodge to temporarily house people it could come down to housing people there out of a medical need, to provide space for a low-barrier situation that would include those who are harder to house, Murdoch said. Otherwise, housing falls to the CRHC, he noted.
“I have an open mind but personally I have a hard time seeing it as a viable spot given the proximity for daycares and schools,” Murdoch said. “There’s a lot of fear and excitement about the chance of having a new, large homeless facility, and I think that for neighbours it’s a real shock given that there was no mention for it [previously].
“I’m seeing a lot of concern, but also a lot of understanding and empathy, to find solutions for [people experiencing homelessness].”
This fall the CRHD is expected to lead a community consultation on how to use the space and Oak Bay will be an active partner in that, Murdoch said.
“CRHD is leading it and I don’t want to see that interrupted by a sideshow here,” Murdoch said.