As the season slips from autumn to winter, the City of Victoria is trying to combat a shortage of emergency shelter spaces.
Year-round there are 220 spaces available, with an additional temporary 145 spaces between Nov. 1 and April 1.
During this time additional mats can become available through the Extreme Weather Protocol (EWP), when weather conditions bring heavy wind, rain, snow or temperatures below zero degrees.
There are 85 tier-1 emergency mats across three locations, but in the event that all shelter beds and mats are full there are 15 additional tier-2 emergency mats. In 2017, the tier-2 beds were needed six times, but there is likely to be a greater need this winter.
“I expect it will be triggered a lot this year,” said Don Evans, executive director of Our Place. “We’ve lost more shelter spaces this year.”
Beds were lost after the Victoria Native Friendship Centre began providing more permanent affordable housing options and since Rock Bay Landing stopped offering overflow beds.
In a motion put forward by Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe and Coun. Marianne Alto, a site has been identified as a contender for a tier-2 emergency shelter on Yates Street.
My Place, a 24/7 transitional housing complex run by Our Place at 1240 Yates St. has a space upstairs that could serve this purpose. While funding from BC Housing had already been approved for this year’s tier-2 spaces, the original location at the Seventh Day Adventist Church had to be moved after experiencing plumbing issues.
Thornton-Joe and Alto consulted with the committee of My Place. The committee supported the idea as long as staff could be provided by BC Housing, that no more than 15 mats be allowed, that the clientele match the shelter’s clientele (in this case a medium- to high-barrier shelter), that the shelter individuals are transported to and from My Place each day, and that the program be discontinued if problems arise.
“I hope the city approves it because it’s important that we have somewhere for people to go on the coldest nights,” Evans said.
The proposal will go to council on Thursday.