Proposal could see Victoria’s Oak Bay care home turned to homeless shelter

Oak Bay Lodge future up in the air
Oak Bay Lodge future up in the air

A proposal that could potentially see a long-term care home in the tony Victoria suburb of Oak Bay transformed into a homeless shelter is ruffling some feathers in the community.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps introduced a motion at the Capital Regional District’s board meeting last week to explore potential new uses for the 238-bed Oak Bay Lodge.

Read more: City of Victoria seeks court order to move homeless people in Beacon Hill Park

Residents of the current facility are moving to a new 320-bed Victoria residence called The Summit.

The Capital Regional Hospital District is taking possession of the Oak Bay Lodge property, with long-term plans to redevelop the site.

But district staff are now exploring several alternative potential uses, including as a homeless shelter.

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City of Victoria wrestles with homelessness dilemma
City of Victoria wrestles with homelessness dilemma

Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch told Global News reception to the idea has been decidedly mixed.

“Residents were generally very surprised, given that we’ve started this long-term process to have this come out of left field,” he said.

Murdoch said he’s not personally opposed to the idea of using the facility as housing for people in need, but said it depends on what form that shelter would take.

Read more: B.C. buys Victoria hotel, as deadline to house homeless in 2 camps looms

“It’s really not suited as a low-barrier site, it’s directly adjacent to a daycare, directly adjacent to a high school and there’s three elementary schools within a couple of blocks.”

B.C. government buy iconic Victoria motel to house homeless
B.C. government buy iconic Victoria motel to house homeless

However, Murdoch also urged the community to not rush to judgment, noting that district staff are looking at several possibilities — including as a potential COVID-19 overflow site.

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“I think it’s important to know that it is preliminary,” he said.

A 2018 homeless count found 1,525 homeless people in the greater Victoria area, 78 per cent of whom are chronically homeless.

“To residents of Oak Bay, we all need to do our part, it’s very unlikely to see an empty building stay empty when there are people living outside,” said Helps.

The province recently bought the Comfort Inn on Blanshard Street to temporarily house homeless residents camping on Pandora Avenue and in Topaz Park.

However, the region continues to grapple with several homeless camps, including one in Beacon Hill Park.

— With files from Brad MacLeod