Community acknowledges need for My Place shelter

It opened four months ago amongst a wave of opposition from neighbours and parents of children attending a nearby school.

It opened four months ago amongst a wave of opposition from neighbours and parents of children attending a nearby school.

But now My Place Transitional Home has been accepted into the community and plans to extend its lease for another six months.

Run by Our Place Society, My Place opened its doors the first week of January to 40 campers from Victoria’s tent city and has been at capacity since then, with 50 more names on the waiting list.

Staffed around the clock, the shelter offers showers, daily meals, a place to store personal belongings, a TV room, music room, computer room and library. So far, 14 people have been housed and five have gone into detox. A few others have landed jobs.

During a meeting Monday night about the future of the temporary shelter, many people spoke in favour of the extension, noting the area has been cleaner thanks to staff picking up garbage and making sure needles aren’t scattered across the ground.

Some residents also feel safer due to the presence of security in the area, but those living next to the shelter have had to put up with noise.

Tony Sprackett, president of the Fernwood Community Association, said the community doesn’t necessarily support the shelter, but rather acknolwedges the need for it until a permanent solution is found elsewhere.

Don Evans, executive director of Our Place, believes one of the reasons the shelter has worked so well is because everyone’s worked together as a community, holding regular meetings with the school, school board, neighbours and community associations to address any issues that arise.

“When you all work together, it makes it a lot easier to get things done,” said Evans, noting there was a lot of anxiety around safety concerns before the shelter opened its doors.

“I think what we can learn is we need to give things a chance, an opportunity to be able to show that it can be done safely.”

Students at the nearby Central Middle School continue to embrace their new neighbours. Principal Topher Macintosh said there hasn’t been any problems at the school and having added security in the area has been an advantage.

The school grounds are clean when students arrive each morning and various classes have done projects to engage those staying at the shelter. A Grade 8 class that runs a sandwich company is using the money they make to create care packages for people moving on from My Place and into their own apartment.

“It’s really a non-issue in the building. It’s just normal now,” said Macintosh.

At the beginning of the year, B.C. Housing leased the vacant city-owned property at 1240 Yates Street (formerly the Boys and Girls Club) to operate the four-month temporary shelter.

Since that time, the government has opened two more temporary shelters — one at the former Mount Edwards Court care home in Fairfield and another at the former Victoria Youth Custody Centre (renamed Choices Transitional Home) in View Royal. The 38 spaces at Mount Edwards are full and so are the 50 spaces at Choices, which provides the option of camping in the courtyard.

Council will decide next week on the proposed extension for My Place. The long-term future of the property is still being explored and considered as part of the redevelopment of the Victoria Fire Department Headquarters.

editor@vicnews.com