Homeless project proposed

Woodwynn Farm in Central Saanich suggested as home to a therapeutic community

Richard LeBlanc figures he has a world-class solution to the CRDs number one problem — homelessness. That’s what one of the hand-written posters that greeted residents during an impromptu public meeting said. The meeting, which drew 80 to 100 Peninsula residents strictly through word-of-mouth notification, was held to present the public with a proposal to run Woodwynn Therapeutic Community on a multi-million dollar farm in Central Saanich. It would be run by LeBlanc’s The Creating Homefullness Society, which is seeking charitable status through the Canada Revenue Agency in a partnership with The Land Conservancy, which is interested in preserving Woodwynn Farm.

Residents responded with emotion to the last-minute meeting, many voiced concern that they’d only heard about the meeting the day before and through the grapevine. LeBlanc explained that he was surprised when the media had got wind of the project through the Hansard documents [transcripts of the meetings at the legislature] that included information about the project. “I had a fear that you were going to hear about it from the media before you head about it from me,” LeBlanc told those gathered Tuesday.

He said his original intent was to have small-scale, face-to-face meetings, those included community meetings held weekly at local coffee shops, but feared the public would hear about the project in the media so he asked a handful of people to spread the word. “Almost nobody here got a direct invite from me and I apologize for that,” he told the standing-room only crowd at the Saanich Peninsula Health Unit.

Residents weren’t appeased by the response, noting that LeBlanc also told them he’s been working on the project for about 18 months, and Woodwynn Farm has been for sale as long.

During the meeting LeBlanc, who was a contractor by profession until 1996, told residents about a program he previously ran called the Youth Employment Project. He boasted a 76 per cent success rate in the downtown Victoria program that closed in 2002 when funding dried up. He told residents he approached his current Royal Roads University partners about a year ago to create another similar project to offer street folks a hand up.

The Woodwynn Therapeutic Community would start small with a group of 12 clients, former street people, working up over time to a maximum of 90 people, as well as a dozen or so staff. All would be housed in existing buildings on the farm.

Clients would be screened and receive some job skills training before participating in the Peninsula program. A major part of the therapeutic community would be having the participants work with the soil, producing organic vegetables on picturesque Woodwynn Farm.

For more on the meeting and the project see the Wednesday, January 16 edition of the Peninsula News Review.

reporter@peninsulanewsreview.com