Salt Spring Island residents fear homelessness after hospital purchase hotel
The owner of an aging hotel in Salt Spring Island, BC, decided to sell the property and move on. The problem with the sale is that the property is currently home to 20 vulnerable people who would otherwise be homeless, and these residents fear they will end up on the streets.
“This is my house,” said Debbie Brisson. “I made it my home.”
The Seabreeze Inne has been her home for 14 months.
Brisson, who has terminal cancer, fears that once the hotel is sold, she will be homeless.
“Where am I going in town?” Said Brisson.
Rich Bahry is another resident who fears the worst.
“I lost one leg and the other is going, I can barely move,” he said.
“There’s no way I’m living on the streets. If I leave here, I’ll be dead in a week.”
BC Housing and Salt Spring Community Services have been renting hotel rooms since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hotel’s agreement with BC Housing expires on December 31, and the owner has decided to sell the property to the Island Medical Center.
“BC Housing still hasn’t ramped up its efforts, so if nothing changes, these people will be out of a place to live very quickly,” said Rob Grant, executive director of Salt Spring Community Services.
Grant says the group can’t afford to buy the hotel on their own.
HPITAL NEEDS STAFF
Salt Spring Island has always had a rental housing supply problem, but now it’s worse than ever with a vacancy rate close to zero.
The island’s only hospital is trying to fill 31 vacancies. This housing challenge is a major deterrent to attracting qualified personnel, according to the health center.
So the hospital made an offer for the hotel and the offer was accepted.
“We are looking to buy it and renovate it into permanent rental housing for hospital staff,” said Roberta Martell, Executive Director of the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation.
Seabreeze Inne on Salt Spring Island, BC Airs: Nov 26, 2021: (CTV News)
Martell says the staff shortage is at a breaking point and medical care on the island is starting to suffer.
“We ran with 31 people and short positions in the hospital which is not sustainable,” she said.
The foundation made an offer on the property after it was clear BC Housing was not going to buy it, Martell says.
“WE ARE CURRENTLY LOOKING FOR”
With the hospital’s offer accepted, BC Housing says it will not abandon current tenants. However, no firm plan has yet been established.
“BC Housing is actively working in the community to ensure that none of the current tenants are moved if and when the property moves to Lady Minto,” the organization said in a statement Friday.
“We are currently reviewing a number of options to determine the most appropriate and cost effective long-term housing solution for these tenants,” said BC Housing.
For Seabreeze residents, their stay is coming to an end and no one is quite sure where they will go.
“We don’t know what’s coming,” said Glenn Peacock, a Seabreeze resident. “It’s hard.”
“I don’t know what they are going to do but they have to do something,” added Brisson. “You can’t kick people out in the middle of winter.”
The Lady Minto Hospital Foundation hopes to take possession of the Seabreeze Inne in early February.