Richard Leblanc, executive director of the Creating Homefulness Society, stands in front of the East Barn. (Alisa Howlett/News Staff file photo)

Woodwynn Farms to be shut down and sold

The rehabilitation program at Woodwynn Farms is being shut down.

According to a statement from the Creating Homefulness Society’s board of directors, key unnamed philanthropists have decided to sell the property after the Agricultural Land Commission denied a proposal to build 40 units of temporary housing for patients.

The statement also says that the four remaining farm residents are to be transitioned into safe and stable housing.

“After nearly a decade of commitment by staff, volunteers, community members, philanthropists, neighbours and residents, it is a sad day for us all,” the statement reads. “The program in its current state is unable to provide a meaningful contribution to the overwhelming need for improved solutions for those most at risk. The decision by the ALC fundamentally prevents the Creating Homefulness Society from making a significant contribution to the fight against homelessness and addiction”.

In an interview, board member Teri DuTemple said the philanthropists originally bought the property in 2008 and the Creating Homefulness Society was supposed to pay them back over time, but they have had too few clients to do so because the ALC has not allowed them to build the necessary housing. She said she did not have permission to disclose the names of the philanthropists.

DuTemple said that the plan was for some board members to visit the farm in the next 72 hours and discuss next steps with the Society’s director, Richard Leblanc and the staff about next steps. The board only received foreclosure documents on Wednesday night.

“We really need to start winding the program and get the farm ready to sell.”

When asked if the Society would consider purchasing land outside the ALR, DuTemple said that “anything’s possible,” but it would depend on the final purchase price of the 193-acre property.

“If the Society still has money, then we’ll definitely look at what to do next. Is it another project, or do we support an existing project? But that [extra] money would stay with the non-profit.”

DuTemple said “it’s really heartbreaking to come to this realization. We had hoped for all these years to make this successful, to help homeless, and we weren’t able to.”

In response to the news, the District of Central Saanich released a statement, saying that the district and council “remain supportive of rehabilitation facilities provided they are zoned appropriately and meet building codes. The District and Council have the utmost respect for the participants at Woodwynn Farm and the society’s goal of providing more addiction rehabilitation options.”

Updated at 4:15 p.m. with a statement from the District of Central Saanich

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