Victoria, Our Place push for storage space to serve homeless population

An on-site storage facility for carts, bags and bins is planned for the Our Place Society

People struggling with homelessness often push carts and carry huge bags of all their worldly possessions to avoid having anything stolen.

This makes it difficult for them to go to interviews, medical appointments or even shower, argues Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe, who has motioned to allocate funding for a storage facility at Our Place.

“This has been something that we have recognized as a need, especially in the downtown core, but it’s always been difficult to find a location,” Thornton-Joe said.

Recently, Thornton-Joe visited the tent city at Regina Park and saw people storing their possessions in bins that would easily fit in the space at Our Place where their overdose prevention site had been located before the Harbour Supervised Consumption Service opened next door.

READ MORE: Pandora supervised consumption site has busy first month

Thornton-Joe spoke with Our Place executive director Don Evans, who helped facilitate a similar storage space in the downtown east side of Vancouver in 2010.

The discussion resulted in storage facility designs that could hold up to 100 people’s carts, bins and rolling suitcases on the Our Place property.

Digital renderings show potential plans for storage facilities at Our Place. (File contributed/City of Victoria)

“Overnight storage frees people up to have access to services,” Evans said. “It’s a safe space for people to keep their IDs, any valuables and medications.”

The facility would be open for either six or eight hours per day, depending on which budget council would vote for if they favour the overall idea.

A six hour facility would cost an initial $39,000 to be built, and another $86,000 per year for operating costs. An eight hour day would see the same building costs, but jump to just over $100,000 per year for operating costs. In either case, operating hours would be a split between morning and evening shifts.

READ MORE: Point in Time count finds homelessness growing in Victoria

“The more hours that it’s accessible works better for people,” Thornton-Joe argued. “If you can’t get your items it leads to frustration and they might not use it again.”

Evans hopes that the storage facility could be up and operational before winter, adding that many people will need to pare down their possessions if they want them all to fit in storage before the rain season begins.

“This is gonna be extremely valuable for the most vulnerable people in our community,” he said. “As much as it’s gonna help the wider community by not having shopping carts in neighbourhood, the biggest thing is that people who are homeless will have somewhere safe to store their possessions.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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