It’s been eight months since the provincial government purchased the former Super 8 hotel on Douglas Street to transform into transitional housing for the city’s homeless, but now the 51-unit facility is ready to open its doors.
The building, located at 2915 Douglas St., will provide short-term housing (with stays up to 14 months) to stabilize people before transitioning into long-term housing. Priority was given to those currently living in transitional shelters, such as Choices in View Royal and My Place in Fernwood, which were set up by the province last year as temporary measures to house some of the 80-plus people living on the lawns of the Victoria courthouse.
The Super 8 property was purchased in June as part of the province’s $26-million investment to house Victoria’s homeless population — many of whom were part of the former tent city. Approximately $7.8 million was provided for the purchase and renovation of the Super 8. Renovations began last fall and included adding exterior lighting, upgrading the fire system, installing a new sprinkler system, new flooring and a secured front entrance.
Portland Hotel Society Community Services Society has been tasked with managing the building and providing support services, including a meal program, employment, life-skills training and assistance accessing mental health and addiction programs. The Vancouver-based non-profit organization currently runs the 140-unit, supportive, low-barrier, long-term housing facility on Johnson Street, which the province opened in late summer.
“We look forward to helping tenants get settled in over the coming weeks,” said Bond in a news release. “Providing people with a safe, comfortable place they can call their own helps to foster a sense of community and encourages residents to accept and support one another while empowering them to determine their own course of recovery.”
Run by Our Place Society, My Place Transitional Home (located at the former boys and girls club) was the first shelter the province opened to house tent city residents. The facility welcomed 40 campers during the first week of January 2016 and has been at capacity since then.
According to Our Place spokesperson Grant McKenzie, the shelter (which provides meals and has residents living in tents in the gymnasium) is now set to close at the end of May, but some residents will be moved to the new facility on Douglas Street.
The long-term plan remains uncertain for Choices Transitional Home (the former youth detention centre), which is also run by Our Place and opened in March with 50 spaces. Despite the additional spaces, McKenzie said the demand for housing remains strong.
“When the Johnson Street building opened, there was all those spaces in there and we thought this will really help and it didn’t make as big a dent as we hoped it would,” said McKenzie, adding Our Place is running more than 200 transitional housing spaces. “It’s sad how many people we find that can’t find homes.”