The former Central Care Home on Johnson Street has been converted into 140 units of long-term supportive housing for people with an assortment of needs.

Chaos starting to calm down in facility for tent city residents

When the residents of tent city moved into the former Central Care Home, Andy Bond expected the first few months would be chaotic.

When the residents of tent city were forced to pack their belongings and move into the former Central Care Home on Johnson Street in August, Andy Bond expected the first few months would be chaotic.

Purchased by the province, the facility at 844 Johnson St. has been converted into a supportive, low-barrier housing (with a focus on harm reduction) complex that includes home-support services, two meals a day and medical staff on-site for first aid, addictions issues and health monitoring. Portland Hotel Society (PHS), the Vancouver-based non-profit organization, is tasked with managing the place.

According to Bond, senior director of housing for PHS, the facility now has the bulk of its support staff in place, consisting of four mental health care workers who are there 24-7, two home support workers who are there five days a week, a project manager, full time nurse and a physician who comes in weekly.

But more support from Island Health would be beneficial, said Bond, such as additional nursing hours, a social worker and a physician three days a week. Otherwise he believes staff have a handle on the situation and the chaos among the 147 residents is starting to calm down.

“I think people need to remember we’re only a couple months in at this point and we did take the entire population of tent city,” said Bond, noting it typically takes between six months to a year for residents who haven’t been housed in a while to settle into their new home.

“I think people were well aware of the challenges that were going on at the site (tent city) in terms of crime in the area, violence and taking a lot of people who have been homeless in some cases, five, 10, 15 years. It takes time for people to settle in and know each other.”

A man who goes by the name Smurf lived at tent city for about 10 months before he moved into the facility on Johnson Street. So far he doesn’t have any complaints about his new home and said he likes not having to worry about not having a lock on his door.

Bridget Goodwin, however, has lived at the building since it opened and said her experience thus far has been horrible.

“The people are treated like animals by the staff,” said Goodwin. “It’s not very well kept together.”

Residents living in the condo next door haven’t enjoyed the experience with their new neighbours either. Some say they’ve been harassed by people standing on the street in front of the building, the nights are often filled with screaming and other disturbances, and used needles have been found on the ground.

Karina Sacca owns a nearby business and has had food thrown at her front door, found graffiti on her stoop and drug paraphernalia, and watched people using drugs.

“It’s just changed the feeling on the street, especially when the sun starts to go down,” said Sacca, who’s pleased to see a bigger security presence at the facility, but still sees emergency responders there on a daily basis.

“It just feels like a scarier block than it used to feel like and that’s the really sad part about this situation is that it’s affecting everyone on this street.”

PHS has been meeting regularly with area residents to listen to and address their concerns. For Bond,  the biggest challenge thus far has been having the tenants adjust to some sort of structure so there isn’t total chaos in the building. One of the only rules pertains to guest restrictions in the rooms.

“It’s not an open tent city where we take in enforcers to collect drug debt. Any of those things will result in a call to 911,” said Bond, adding PHS staff also meet regularly with police, trying to make sure they’re on the same page. Police are expected to release a report in the coming weeks regarding calls for service to the building.

“Things are going to come up when you deal with a lot of concentrated mental health issues and addiction.”

The Johnson Street facility is one of several properties recently purchased by the province in order to provide housing for the more than 80 people who were camped on the lawn of the Victoria courthouse for nearly a year.

Since the province shut down the homeless camp, not much has changed at the site, which still has a fence surrounding the leaf-covered property that contains a few piles of dirt.

In a written statement, a provincial spokesperson said pest control is now complete and soil testing is underway to determine the extent of remediation required. Soil sampling has been taken at six different locations at the site, and the province is still considering what the best design and future use will be.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Struggling to afford rent, Sylvia Bailey is hoping to trade her love of cooking for some more affordable accommodation. (Photo courtesy of Sylvia Bailey)
Retired Victoria woman looking to cook, clean or garden in exchange for rent

Sylvia Bailey is hoping to use her love for cooking to help afford rent

Victoria police are searching for a suspect after a stabbing Monday night. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria police searching for suspect in late-night stabbing

Victim taken to hospital with potentially life-threatening injuries

Panthers’ Captain Tanner Wort faces Tory McClintick of the Victoria Cougars during Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League action Friday night at Panorama Recreation Centre. The Panthers lost 3-0, then lost 7-2 Sunday. (Gordon Lee/Submitted)
Peninsula Panthers’ losing streak reaches four games as injuries mount

Injuries have especially hurt the team’s backline with only four defenders available

The drive-through COVID-19 testing facility at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Black Press Media file photo)
Island Health opens COVID-19 testing site at UVic

As with all other sites, an appointment is needed to receive a test

Thousands filled Centennial Square in June for the peace rally for Black lives, sparked by outrage over the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Black Press Media file photo)
Survey seeks input on racism in Greater Victoria

Confidential answers to inform work with immigrants and marginalized people

Carolyn and Steve Touhey came across a pod of humpback whales while on their boat Sunday, Oct. 25. Photo supplied
VIDEO: Boaters encounter pod of humpbacks in Georgia Strait

Pod spotted between Comox and Texada Island

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

The voting station mimicked a real voting station in Nicole Choi’s classroom at Chilliwack middle school on Oct. 22, 2020, where students had to show their ID (student cards), be checked off a list, and mark a secret ballot behind a screen. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. students choose NDP majority in mock election

More than 90,000 youth took part in school-based election process

Crew transport bus at the Trans Mountain pipeline project work site in Burnaby, March 2020. (Trans Mountain)
Check your workplace COVID-19 safety plans, Dr. Henry urges

Masks in public spaces, distance in lunchrooms for winter

B.C.’s Court of Appeal is in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Judgment reserved in Surrey Six slayings appeals

Six men were killed in suite 1505 of the Balmoral Tower in Whalley on Oct. 19, 2007

Kelowna City Hall has been vandalized overnight. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna City Hall hit by anti-pandemic vandalism

Graffiti condemning the virus appears overnight on City Hall

FILE – A woman smokes a marijuana joint at a “Wake and Bake” legalized marijuana event in Toronto on October 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Home nurse visits could play big role in reducing cannabis use, smoking in young mothers

The program, dubbed the BC Healthy Connections Project, involves public health nursing home visits

Most Read