A resident of the newly opened Russell Street shelter is being told to leave after he was arrested Sunday in relation to a Victoria West structure fire.
The fire broke out Saturday evening in a dumpster in the 300-block of Mary Street and soon spread to the adjacent commercial building. Emergency crews responded and were able to extinguish the flames, but not before significant damage was sustained.
On Sunday, after deeming the fire suspicious and identifying a suspect, Victoria police arrested a man for arson at the new Russell Street temporary housing facility.
Director of communications for Our Place Society, Grant McKenzie, said when residents moved in two weeks ago they each had to sign an agreement stating that their residency was contingent on not engaging in criminal activity.
“We’re very distressed this happened to the neighbourhood,” McKenzie said.
So far, Saturday’s incident was the first time the shelter had to enforce the residency agreement and McKenzie said overall it’s been off to a good start.
“We have people who feel stabilized enough that they’ve gone into detox for the very first time,” he said. “Unfortunately there are so many people in the parks coming into housing who have never received proper treatment for addiction or trauma and abuse they’ve gone through.”
He doesn’t know whether the man who was arrested suffered from a mental illness or committed the arson in an act of mischief, but either way, McKenzie said it speaks to a gap in housing.
“It sounds like this was someone who was probably in traumatic distress and needed much more help than a charity can provide,” he said.
Police say the file remains under investigation.
Anyone with information can contact the VicPD report desk at 250-995-7654, ext. 1, or report anonymously to Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
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