Our Place Society has opened its first seven-day-a-week shelter to help get 40 people off the streets during the winter months.
With the help of provincial funding, Our Place will operate the shelter out of the First Metropolitan Church until March 31.
The shelter, which will be run by three staff members, will help accommodate the city’s homeless population who don’t already access shelters and will include space for shopping carts indoors, pets and areas for couples.
Don Evans, executive director with Our Place, expects the shelter will be busy in the upcoming months.
“There’s a need for more, but this is a good start . . . It gets people out of the cold, wet rain,” he said. “We’re really trying to reduce the barriers for people to get them inside. We’re looking at the population that aren’t accessing the existing shelters and all the other shelters are running at capacity.”
They will also provide outreach and security staff, while custodial staff will do the clean up in the morning.
The shelter will be open at 7:30 p.m., earlier than most shelters, and will close at 7 a.m.
“People often sleep earlier for safety reasons. By having that open earlier it will be an advantage to people on the street because often they’re looking at where they’re going to sleep and bat down for the night fairly early,” Evans said, adding the church is only a few blocks away from Our Place, allowing them to access a warm meal in the morning.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps believes this is a step in the right direction towards meeting the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness’ goal of ending homelessness by 2018.
“It really shows to me that the City of Victoria’s advocacy efforts and all the work we’ve been doing in sheltering in parks is being taken seriously by the provincial government and for that I am deeply grateful,” said Helps, adding when people use shelters they can take an inventory of what their needs are.
“Shelters aren’t homes. But they’re 1,000 times better for everybody, including the people sleeping in parks and also the people who live near parks where people are sleeping.”