SEAPARC Leisure Complex will be used as an emergency space for up to 45 homeless people needing to self-isolate during the coronavirus outbreak.
The shelter will be operated by the Sooke Region Communities Health Network, in collaboration with B.C. Housing, regional health authorities and municipal governments, who have worked on developing a community response plan for the pandemic.
The temporary shelter at the SEAPARC Leisure Complex will aim to provide housing and the ability to self-isolate for Sooke’s homeless population, or residents at risk of homelessness.
“This is being set up as a temporary transitional stabilization unit, intending to do coordinated assessments of everyone coming in to the shelter, determining where they are at and what resources they need, in order to be successful in self isolating,” said Jen Wilde, homelessness programs coordinator, for the Sooke Region Communities Health Network, and director of operations for the COVID-19 response isolation shelter in Sooke.
Wilde said before this plan was set in place, the SRCHN reached out to the Sooke homeless population, assessed what the need was in Sooke, and based its plan off that.
“In in order for these people to have basic needs met, for things like food, washrooms, or shelter, people who are homeless need to wander here, there and everywhere in order to find all those pieces,” Wilde said.
“We are providing them an opportunity to self isolate, so they can meet the requirements of the local health authorities. These people are the most at risk for contracting the virus, and if it did get in to the local homeless population it would spread like wildfire.”
Aside from staff, Wilde said there will be multiple resource agencies on the site, providing services and support to the individuals using the facility, including the Sooke Shelter Society, AVI Health and Community Services Society, and nurses. It is expected that the arena will be set up to welcome guests “in the next week or two.”
“The idea behind this operation is that people will come in, we will stabilize them, asses their needs, and reallocate them to appropriate resources,” Wilde said.
“Sooke has really stepped up for this. We have a really strong network of organizations and municipal support to make sure that even during a pandemic, we have the capacity to support the most vulnerable community members.”
Al Beddows, Sooke councillor and chair of the SEAPARC commission, said there is spots to accommodate 45 people: 30 spots indoors on the arena floor, as well as 15 outdoor spots.
The emergency response centre is set to be operational until June 30.
“The space is vacant now, just sitting idle, so during these trying times we have to try and find a way to make things work, and keep everyone safe and distanced,” Beddows said.
“Right now the mandate is for everyone to stay at home, and this population (the homeless) doesn’t generally stick to one geographical location. So this gives them a place to stay until the pandemic blows over, so they can stay safe, and also not spread the virus by wandering place to place.”
Beddows said there’s some small concerns for the facility, but as a crew will be at the facility day and night, monitoring and helping out, he trusts it’s in good hands.
“We have to do our part to keep everyone safe, and there is a group looking after the place that will deal with any concerns when, and if, they arise,” said Beddows.