Phoenix Riting! – September 28th, 2023

Phoenix Riting!

What is it about winter on the island? It happens right after Equinox, or, like last year, holds off until nearly Hallowe’en, but it’s always sudden. We leap from summer’s heat and abundance to a sudden damp chill that I forget to anticipate. Daylight time is noticeably shorter than dark time. The garden stops growing. Market season ends, with indoor markets to come. Speaking of that, the Thanksgiving market will be Saturday October at the Hall from 10am to 1pm.


These seasonal cycles happen every year, and I’m never ready. Part of me never quite believes in winter, no matter how many times it comes around. It doesn’t get as cold here as it does up North, but it’s plenty cold enough to suffer or die of exposure without warmth and shelter. I am grateful for the warmth and shelter I am privileged to enjoy. I wish this for all, while I am keenly aware that too many people in our community (and everywhere) suffer for the lack of adequate or secure homes.


I’m encouraged by some initiatives I’ve seen set in motion to make housing available, and daunted by how long they are taking, how much time is spent talking about it rather than doing something about it. In some cases, it’s hard to discern motion at all. People require housing; it’s a basic human right. And we try and try. Yet still vulnerable people, including children, shiver in the cold in winter, or occupy couches or car seats or other uncomfortable and unsustainable temporary shelters. Demanding that things change is important, and in addition, we need to be real about what the actual problem here is.


We struggle to comply with bureaucratic regulations that do not allow communities any degree of internal autonomy when it comes to defining their own housing needs and standards. What used to be called ISLA here on Hornby, “Islanders Secure Land Association,” now included with Elder Housing under the umbrella of the Hornby Housing Society, has tried hard for years. Volunteers exhausted themselves exploring every possible path forward. The best of intentions fizzled out over years and years of frustration dealing with bureaucracy, so that eventually once-unacceptable compromises were reluctantly accepted, previous momentum stalled into apparent immobility and now what?


There is another series of public engagement meetings this fall that might, maybe, open something up (I’m being optimistic but you have to hope). HICEEC has received funding from the Island Coastal Economic Trust to have consultants help us to build on and develop our Economic Development Strategy to meet our unique needs, to update the 2015 Economic Action Plan for Hornby Island. We really must ensure that housing for workers and marginalized islanders is made a priority.


About the consultants from Wellesley (quoted from HICEEC mailout):

5 members of WCG
s team will be attending September 26th’s Community Engagement Session for the Economic Development Strategy:

Ross Birchall, Lyn Hall, Allan Lingwood, Kathleen Soltis, and Ian Wells. 

They have extensive backgrounds in community engagement, municipal government (both elected leaders and senior management positions), business management, and all aspects affecting local economies. 

The consultants have clearly stated that they are seeking our input and engagement and are at the behest of the community to create meaningful objectives and action items for the next 5 years in the key areas affecting residents and business owners alike. The first sessions are engaging with the public on these areas, hearing all opinions from all walks of life no matter what they are, so that they can accurately identify the priorities of our local community. They will return a month later to engage with the public again to make sure they got it right. Following that they will deliver a report and strategy to the community that identifies these areas of action and who is responsible, and what can be done to reach the goals of the community, and that strategy can then be used to raise funds as needed and build capacity to take further action in those areas. They have committed to walking us through this process.

The team is interested in action, not studying and putting a report on a shelf, and acknowledges that the community has been subjected to many studies and consultations in the past that, for some, have perhaps missed the mark or not met the needs of the community. They have reviewed what studies, plans and strategies have been made available to them and are thankful for the participation and context those have provided. In order to maximize the impact of this work, attendance is critical no matter what the stance is on the local economy. They are encouraging attendees to trust in the process, and be prepared to “roll up their sleeves” to engage and share ideas.


That sounds hopeful, right? There are to be a total of four meetings: two in person at the Hall, and two on Zoom. The first meeting is in person Tuesday September 26th; if you didn’t go to that, you’ll have missed it. I plan to be there; I’ll let you all know how it goes. The next meeting will be on Zoom on October 2nd. Following meetings will be in November. You can register online and get more information here: I hope as many people as possible will engage with this process and add your voice to help guide us on a good path.


That’s what I think. What do you think? email me at