The tent city on the lawns of the courthouse has spurred a shift in the province’s thinking about homelessness in the region, says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
“The judge (Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson) was very clear, unless there is somewhere for these people to go they’re going to be able to stay at the courthouse. I think that’s really what has helped to spur the province into action,” Helps said, adding before tent city, discussions by the province about homelessness were already underway.
“There has been a shift in the province’s understanding of the importance of housing to the economy.”
Earlier this year, the province filed an injunction to evict campers from the lawns of the courthouse on Burdett Avenue. However, Hinkson denied the application on the grounds that there was no place else for them to go.
Since then, the province has purchased a number of buildings to turn into housing units.
Last week, it purchased the former Super 8 Hotel on Douglas Street to house an additional 51 homeless people.
The province will renovate the units that will be converted into supportive housing for individuals in need of short-term housing before moving into more permanent housing. A non-profit operator will be selected to take care of the day-to-day operations of the building and provide support services to clients, including a meal program.
The $6.5-million purchase is expected to be finalized by the end of September and people will begin moving in by November.
“It’s very good news for the region to have more housing purchased by the province,” Helps said, adding the site is particularly exciting because it has a lot of development potential in the long-run. “It’s a big site so it could eventually be knocked down and have a purpose built, more dense than 51 units of affordable housing.”
Earlier this month, the province also announced it purchased the former Central Care Home building on Johnson Street at a cost of $11.2 million. The building will provide more than 140 additional housing units and tenants will begin moving into the building next month.
“This is another step toward making sure people in the community who are homeless have a safe and secure place to stay,” said Housing Minister Rich Coleman, in a press release. “Our hope is that anyone at the courthouse camp who is in need of housing will take advantage of the . . . units of new housing we are opening in Victoria.”
The province is in court again this week requesting a second application to have the campers removed, citing safety concerns.