photos: Woodwyn Farms in Victoria. Photo by Jamila Douhaibi.

Victoria homeless program faces closure

Out Front: Victoria’s Woodwynn Farms is fighting the district’s order to shut down their program which could send participants back to the streets

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Just 12 days before Christmas, the people at Victoria’s Woodwynn Farms Treatment Centre’s housing were greeted with “No occupancy” orders posted by municipal officials.

The BC Agricultural Land Commission and the District of Central Saanich moved to evict the six participants at the treatment centre with no alternative place to go.

Woodwynn Farms is a 193-acre organic farm that bills itself as a therapeutic community for the homeless that offers educational and work programs.

But Richard LeBlanc, the farms’ founder and executive director of the Creating Homefulness Society, says they’re going to defy the order.

“I will not allow our participants to be put out onto the streets,” he says in a media release. “It’s time for our provincial leadership to step in and do the right thing.”

There was a recent fire at Woodwynn that highlighted the need for more stable and safer housing on site, but BC Housing had stepped up to support the next phase of housing—up to 40 new participants over three years, according to LeBlanc.

But the Agricultural Land Commission recently denied a permit for proper housing on Woodwynn, stating, “the social benefits of the proposal do not outweigh the priority given to agriculture” in its decision.

But the organization points out that the commission just approved a permit for a 10-acre shopping mall on Agricultural Land Reserve farmland at the Sidney Crossing project near the Victoria Airport.

“I’m absolutely devastated,” says Kylie Janzen, a current Woodwynn participant, in the release. “I can’t go back to the streets. I’m not ready. I’ve worked really hard to get back to having a life with my daughter.

“Woodwynn has been the best place I’ve ever gone to. They’ve helped me make great strides, but I have a lot more work to do on myself. I know that.”

In an interview with the Times Colonist, Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor said the notices were a result of safety concerns—citing the recent fire on site.

This isn’t the first time the farm and the district have locked horns. In 2013, Central Saanich placed a no-occupancy order on a barn. Then in 2014, it filed a notice of civil claim to try and close the farm.

 

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