Vancouver Island therapeutic recovery farm has a new owner — the B.C. government

The B.C. government has purchased a historic farm on Vancouver Island and plans to relaunch a controversial therapeutic recovery program that closed earlier this year but with some changes.

Woodwynn Farm was originally run by a non-profit but project collapsed earlier this year

The B.C. government budgeted approximately $6.9 million for the project. (CHEK News)

The B.C. government has purchased a historic farm on Vancouver Island and plans to relaunch a controversial therapeutic recovery program that closed earlier this year — but with some changes.

Run by the Creating Homefulness Society, the Woodwynn Farm property in Central Saanich had originally been pitched as a live-in recovery community helping people recover from addiction and mental health issues. 

Shayne Ramsay, the CEO of B.C. Housing, said the biggest difference between the old program and the new one is where the participants will be housed — not on the farm, but instead in supportive housing in the surrounding area.

"We purchased the farm to look at opportunities to partner with organizations in the Capital Region District that provide supportive housing," he said.

"Once [a] person has had the opportunity to stabilize, the concept then is to look at the therapeutic value of the farm … it rounds out the healing process for folks who are dealing with mental health and addiction."

Woodwyn Farm's was originally a live-in recovery community where members worked on the farm. (Homefullness at Woodwyn Farm/Facebook)

Future day program

The province has budgeted approximately $6.9 million for the site, including $5.8 million for the purchase of the land and $1.1 million for renovations, fees and other soft costs.

The Creating Homefulness Society had bought the 193-acre farm in 2009 but faced financial setbacks, complaints from the community and red tape before the project collapsed nearly a decade later.

Last November, the province's Agricultural Land Commission denied an application for non-farm use of the facility. Philanthropists funding the project with the non-profit society withdrew support, forcing the farm to foreclose.

"There will be no housing on the farm. We will be abiding by the agricultural land use decision,"  Ramsay told Gregor Craigie, the host of CBC's On the Island.

There are roughly 1,400 supportive housing spaces in the area which will "form the base" for the program, he said.

Day programs on farms can be just as successful as live-in programs in helping people get back on their feet, Ramsay emphasized and said he aims to help participants engage with the community and find future employment.  

"You don't want to simply be warehousing folks. You want to provide those further opportunities for meaningful engagement and really developing a purpose for their lives," said Ramsay.

The B.C. government has purchased a historic farm on Vancouver Island and plans to relaunch a controversial therapeutic recovery program that closed earlier this year, but with some changes. 9:11

With files from On The Island.

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