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.

 

 

Just Posted

Overworked and understaffed: More than 300 vacancies in Vancouver Island nursing

Tentative deal with province includes ‘working short premium’ to encourage hiring

Victoria city council seeks authority to tax empty homes

Council is asking the province for the authority to invoke a vacancy tax

Backyardigans, Max & Ruby stage shows add to Family Day in Sidney

Bodine Hall shows make room for kids to sing, dance, enjoy Family Day weekend

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes says municipality will re-group after Rowing Canada decision

Haynes said he is “quite disappointed” but also respects choice of North Cowichan as national centre

CRD committee proposes ending livestock payouts to farmers

The bylaw has existed since the creation of the CRD’s animal control service in 1979

VIDEO: Excessive speed on the Malahat captured by dash cam footage

Poster calls driving ‘dangerous, obnoxious and disrespectful’

Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Many exemptions to tax, but annual declarations required

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Should people have to license their cats?

The Victoria Natural History Society has sent letters to 13 municipalities in… Continue reading

Olympian snowboarder Max Parrot diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Each year in Canada, approximately 900 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery accused of sexual assault, harassment

Emery denied the allegations, but a Toronto woman says she is not the only one speaking out

Vancouver Island photographer makes National Geographic’s 2018 elite

Rare double honour for Marston from the 36 best Your Shots out of nearly 19,000 photos

Ex-Liberal candidate in Burnaby, B.C., says volunteer wrote controversial post

Karen Wang dropped out following online post singling out NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Most Read