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Victoria’s Our Place commits to helping every person off Pandora by year-end

After surveying unhoused people camped on Pandora Ave., Our Place wants to find a path to help for each
Our Place CEO Julian Daly speaks to reporters about efforts to survey people living on the street on Pandora Avenue. (Mark Page/News Staff)

Our Place, a society that helps those in need around Greater Victoria, surveyed all of the unhoused people living in tents in front of its Pandora Avenue facility, and all of them say they want off the street.

“I think there’s not a person in the city who is not deeply concerned and dismayed by what they see on Pandora Avenue,” Our Place CEO Julian Daly said in a May 7 press conference. “And I think no one wants to see it gone more than the people who are actually living here.”

The goal of the survey is to find out more about these people, including how old they are, what brought them there, and ultimately, what it would take for them to get them off the street.

Daly said Our Place aims to get all of these people into some form of housing or care by the end of the year.

“Our Place has committed to and must resolve to try and to find every single person who’s currently on Pandora, a pathway off Pandora by December of this year.”

He said he sees this as a realistic goal, noting that at one point during the pandemic there were roughly 700 people living on the street in Victoria. Our Place surveyed 77 people who are currently living on the block at least some of the time.

“I wouldn’t be here today, frankly, if I didn’t think it was achievable,” Daly said.

This is to involve individualized approaches to address people’s particular mental health or addiction challenges.

“We find that an one size fits all approach to ending homelessness doesn’t always work well, because it doesn’t really recognize the individual needs,” Daly said. “And people need different things to get off the street.”

This will not involve simply providing more rooms or beds at Our Place facilities, Daly said, as those are all currently full. Our Place operates 10 sites, providing shelter beds and supportive housing, as well as services such as meals and showers.

Daly acknowledges achieving the goal will require partnership with government agencies and the health authority.

Work on the survey began in January and was conducted by outreach workers Madeline Tessmer and Cam Harper.

The idea was to actually speak to every person who was camping at or near the block of Pandora Avenue between Quadra Street and Vancouver Street.

Cam Harper and Madeline Tessmer have been working on surveying the Pandora Avenue’s unhoused since January. The work is ongoing. (Mark Page/News Staff)

Every single person the pair spoke to said they wanted off the street and people were generally willing to talk openly about their personal situation with this aim in mind.

“If they think it’s going to help them with the housing, then they’re usually always willing to share that information,” Tessmer said.

Tessmer and Harper would also bring around coffee in the morning and get to know the people they were surveying. Some of these people had been on the block for as little as a month, others for as long as 10 years.

“I think we’ve built up a good reputation in the community,” Harper said. “And I think that is a big reason why people are very open and willing to chat with us.”

People were asked several questions about their situation, including about their struggles with mental health and addiction.

Survey results show that 95 per cent of people are currently struggling with their mental health, 85 per cent have untreated physical ailments, and 39 per cent are currently interested in accessing treatment programs.

This information is being used to create a by-name list to aid Our Place in efforts to find appropriate housing for people.

“We will work with people on a on a on a person by person basis,” Daly said. “That’s the only real way to do this.”

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About the Author: Mark Page

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