British Columbia

Conflicts between Salt Spring Island property owners and homeless people rising, says social service provider

Rob Grant, executive director of Salt Spring Community Services Society, says people coming to the island from Victoria and Vancouver are often challenged to find suitable and lasting homes.

Latest homeless count shows 82 people finding shelter on derelict boats or in the bush

The view of Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island where social service providers say there is an urgent need for increased housing. (Google Streetview)

The number of people camping in the bush or living onboard derelict boats is growing on Salt Spring Island according to a local social service provider, which also says the island's first homeless count since 2008 shows an urgent need for new housing.

"I think there's more people drifting over to the island from Victoria from Vancouver," said Rob Grant, executive director with the Salt Spring Island Community Services Society. "And there's also people on the island that have lost their housing, just because of housing challenges here."

In 2008, a one-night count showed 35 people living on the island without proper shelter. In February 2016, that number was 82.

No year-round shelter

"Our situation can become kind of invisible because our raw numbers aren't huge, but relative to the size of our community they're really big," said Grant.

He says an increasing number of apartments and cabins that used to be available for monthly rentals are now being listed as vacation properties.

Salt Spring Island lacks a year-round shelter and only has a 20-mat winter space.

Grant says the community is seeing a growing number of conflicts and complaints about homeless people camping on private property.

He is hoping to see funding from the province and Capital Regional District for housing proposals soon.

In 2013, the provincial and federal governments combined to provide $280,000 for new affordable housing for seniors and transitional housing for women on Salt Spring Island while the CRD put up $165,000.

At the time Dana Peace, with Island Women Against Violence Society said, "the lack of affordable housing is a significant concern for many on Salt Spring Island and the Southern Gulf Islands, but is particularly critical for the more vulnerable members of our community."

with files from Keith Vass


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