The search is on for a temporary location to house more than 50 campers living outside the Victoria courthouse, and Our Place has been tasked with finding and running the appropriate site.
Earlier this month, the province announced it was providing $400,000 to fund a new 40-bed temporary shelter with Victoria and Island Health. An additional $25,000 will go towards start up costs.
The shelter will operate until the end of April and provide meals and other supports. It will also remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week as opposed to regular shelters that are only open at night.
Our Place spokesperson Grant McKenzie is still waiting for specific details about the project, but hopes to bring the campers indoors with their gear by the end of the month.
“They want a place where the people who are at tent city will feel comfortable. What exactly that will look like is difficult to know,” said McKenzie, adding it’ll boil down to the location on whether the campers will be able to pitch their tents indoors.
“They are working hard to try and get the best possible solution for everybody.”
The patch of green space along Burdett Avenue is owned by the province, therefore police need a request to remove the campers like they do in city parks where bylaws only allow sheltering between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.
With no police forcing campers to pack up and leave every morning, the green space has become popular among the city’s homeless. Some of those who live nearby, however, aren’t too fond of their new neighbours, and claim there’s been a spike in crime and disturbances as more tents arrive.
Premier Christy Clark has said if the campers don’t move to the new shelter when it opens, they will be asked to leave the courthouse.
According to McKenzie, everybody at tent city wants housing.
“Some of them have had bad experiences in shelters and one of the troubles with shelters is a lot of the time it’s very similar to camping in that you are setting up at night, packing up in the morning and moving on,” said McKenzie, adding there will always be a need for shelters until more permanent housing becomes available.
“The idea behind this shelter is to make it 24/7 so that people have a permanent bed. We really want this to be the first step towards permanent housing for everybody.”
The new shelter will be in addition to the 150 year-round homeless shelter spaces in Victoria, along with the 145 shelter spaces that are available during extreme weather.
The City of Victoria is chipping in $75,000 in rent supplements and the United Way will contribute $25,000.