Former Boys and Girls Club building to house courthouse campers

The former Boys and Girls Club building on Yates Street has been selected as the location for a temporary 40-bed emergency shelter.

The City of Victoria has selected the former Boys and Girls Club building on Yates Street as the location for a temporary 40-bed emergency shelter for those camping outside the courthouse.

Our Place has already been tasked with operating the facility, which will offer support services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, along with storage, laundry and daily meals until the end of April.

But not everyone is on board with the plan.

The Greater Victoria School District has expressed concern about the temporary site being located close to Central Middle School and the Facebook page of the school’s parent advisory committee has generated a lengthy discussion about the matter that includes a few posts from Mayor Lisa Helps.

“This is about finding a solution to help people in our community who need some extra support…not about who didn’t contact you or ask your permission,” wrote one woman in a post.

“Most parents that I’ve spoken with from Central are not concerned with who was or was not contacted first. No location is ever going to be fully supported but these are human beings who deserve at the very least, to be warm each night. I am disappointed in the lack of compassion and finger pointing that all opposed seem to be so concerned with.”

In an effort to find solutions for the homeless crisis, city officials have been consulting with the community for a number of months. An online survey showed most people supported expanding existing shelters or using existing vacant buildings for temporary shelters rather than exploring options for sheltering in city parks.

As for the new temporary shelter, the city has requested a meeting with the school’s parent advisory committee and a community meeting will be held at 1240 Yates St. on Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. From that meeting, the city plans to establish a neighbourhood agreement and committee on how the temporary shelter can be provided while minimizing impacts to the neighbourhood.

The long term future of the property is still being explored and could be considered as part of the redevelopment of the Victoria Fire Department headquarters.

More than 50 campers are now living on a patch of grass outside the Victoria courthouse. Premier Christy Clark said if the campers don’t move to the new shelter when it opens, they will be asked to leave.

B.C. Housing is contributing $400,000 to the shelter, United Way will chip in $25,000 and the city will provide up to $45,000 to upgrade the facility for its temporary use. Officials hope to have the doors open the first week of January.