The Oak Bay Lodge is currently a home for seniors, but not for long as the Capital Regional District (CRD) considers transforming the building into a facility for the homeless.
“The Oak Bay Lodge will be vacant at the end of August, at which point it will be owned by the CRD, and that point I suggested that it would be good to use that for something,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who is also on the CRD Board of Directors.
Residents at the lodge will soon be moved to a new facility on Hillside Avenue, leaving the CRD to decide what to do with the empty building.
The unanimously passed motion put forth by Helps, states that the CRD is looking into two options for the soon-to-be empty building.
One of the ideas was to turn the lodge into a COVID-19 emergency facility, in case there was a resurgence of the virus, but Helps says that idea was shot down by the Island Health Authority.
“Island health indicated quickly in a statement that they’re not interested in using it for a second wave of COVID, they have other plans in case that should happen,” said Victoria’s mayor.
The other option on the table is to temporarily use the health care facility to house people living in homelessness.
“I think its important that we never be closed to ideas,” said Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch. “We don’t want it sitting empty for a long period of time.”
The Mayor of Oak bay says he’s open to the idea, but there are some considerations.
“The reality is that area has significant issues. It’s directly adjacent to the high school, its just a block away from an elementary school. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be open to looking at options for that,” said Murdoch.
Some Oak Bay residents say it’s just not the right place.
“You know there are two schools in the neighbourhood, there’s a lot of kids and families in that neighbourhood, and whether or not that’s the right place, I don’t believe it is,” said one concerned resident.
Others are worried about the possible damage to the building.
“In the papers, they say they destroy a lot of the places, and we don’t want that destruction,” said another person living in Oak Bay. “I don’t know what the net cost is of doing all this, but its has to be extremely high.”
But others, even those who live in the area, are supportive.
“There’s a lack of housing in Victoria so it seems like an obvious choice, it’s already an institutional building so its all ready to go for that,” said a woman who lives within sight of the Oak Bay Lodge.
Phillip Livingston, who also lives nearby, says support for those in need should not be limited to Victoria.most of the
“Most homeless shelters are mainly in the downtown core and that kind of excludes a lot of people who may reside elsewhere,” said Livingston.
But even if Oak Bay isn’t on board with the homeless shelter plan, the final decision is in the hands of the CRD as it is already zoned as a health facility.
“It’s been operating as a health facility for many years, and this is just a different kind of health facility,” said Helps.
The Mayor and CRD Board member say this could be a desperately-needed solution for those without a home.
“There’s a vacant building with 238 spaces and there are at least 200 people living in the region who are currently homeless, so we need to all do our part to find a way forward to address this crisis,” said the Mayor.
So far it’s just a discussion and something being looked into, but the Oak Bay Lodge could be home to some new residents, soon.