Sechelt motel temporarily housing homeless to prevent COVID spread

BC Housing has secured a contract with a motel in Sechelt to temporarily shelter people during the COVID-19 crisis.

Fifteen spaces have been made available so people without stable housing can “maintain physical distance during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Matthew Borghese, senior communications advisor with BC Housing, in an email to Coast Reporter.

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The contracted rooms are at the Royal Reach Motel and Marina at 5758 Wharf Ave.

District of Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers mentioned the additional spaces at a May 14 Sunshine Coast Regional District board meeting.

In a follow-up interview on May 22, she told Coast Reporter BC Housing coordinated with Sunshine Coast’s Emergency Operations Centre to secure the location.

“It’s been really quiet, it’s been really good,” she said. “There have been no community complaints, no calls to the RCMP.”

The province is funding the program, said Siegers, and it’s unclear how long the program will operate. The Royal Reach declined to comment when contacted by Coast Reporter.

Borghese said BC Housing consults with local health authorities, non-profits and regional hotel associations, and hotels are chosen based on “suitability and willingness to help provide temporary housing for people who do not have a safe space to physically distance during the crisis.”

Normally a 20-bed shelter at 5653 Wharf Ave., run by RainCity Housing, consistently operates at capacity, said Borghese. That shelter continues to operate but has reduced its capacity to 10 beds. By moving some people to the motel “we are able to reduce the number of people in existing shelters, to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19.” As of May 25, both the shelter and motel are operating at capacity.

Vancouver Coastal Health makes the spaces at the motel available through referral. Service includes daily meals, access to showers and bathrooms, laundry and health services. Support staff are on site 24/7 and monitor building access, Borghese said.

As of May 25, BC Housing has made more than 2,700 spaces available across the province, including at motels, hotels and community centres. Since there is no end date, the cost of the program is unknown, but contracts have been secured “at a significant cost savings, below market rental rate,” said Borghese. BC Housing, citing privacy considerations and contract negotiations, does not disclose which hotels and motels are used. Community centres are named.

Some hotels are being used specifically for people with COVID-19 who need a place to self-isolate while they recover, while other spaces are for people discharged from hospital with other medical conditions who need to recover, which frees up hospital beds, according to an April 7 BC Housing release announcing the program.

Hotels that shelter people who haven’t contracted COVID-19 can remain open to the public at their discretion. Borghese said the Sechelt motel is being used for people who have compromised immune systems or are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.


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