A lack of funding for design changes and support services could derail plans for youth housing on the West Shore as an autumn deadline looms.
Mark Muldoon, executive director for the Threshold Housing Society, said a lack of transitional housing for youth on the West Shore has been an ongoing issue for a number of years.
“We have been trying to get support to supply transitional housing on the West Shore since 2012,” he said. “We couldn’t find appropriate property and the only housing we found was too isolated. Good transitional homes need to be close to transit hubs and amenities like grocery stores.”
Although there is transitional housing available in Victoria, that is far from an ideal solution, Muldoon said.
“The kids need to live near where their families, schools and friends are on the West Shore,” he explained.
“They can get into trouble or get involved in street life if they have to go downtown.”
He cited a recent national study that found 40 per cent of homeless people started on that path before the age of 18.
Muldoon believed they had found a solution for 10 units of housing for higher risk youth in a new $8 million building that the Greater Victoria Housing Society is planning to build on Goldstream Avenue – behind the new Pacific Family Services Association’s building that’s already under construction. The new building will provide 104 rental units for low income adults.
“It’s an ideal location so near to the new Pacific Family Services Centre and the Ministry of Children and Family Development office on Wale Road,” he said.
“We’re a small to medium non-profit, so financing is a leap too far on our own.”
Muldoon said an ideal situation would be to reach a long-term arrangement with the ministry to cover the design changes and 24-hour supervision housing that higher risk youth would require.
But there has been no commitment from the ministry so far and time is running out to implement the design changes before construction begins.
Several requests for comment were not returned by the ministry at the time of the Gazette’s press deadline.
Greater Victoria Housing executive director Kaye Mellship confirmed that they had reached a memorandum of understanding with Threshold Housing Society in April of 2016 that included “very specific” design requirements.
That was updated again in April of this year with an aim to signing a lease in October, but time is running out for Threshold to secure funding for the revised design costs, which include a separate staircase for the youth, mechanical and structural changes and provisions for a bathroom in each unit.
“We would welcome them back if they can come up with the funds for redesign and support services,” Mellship said. “It would have to be done sooner rather than later because we are making development permit applications in the fall. We can’t cover the costs of redesigning again. We need Threshold to give us a go or no go.”
Mitzi Dean served as executive director for Pacific Centre Family Services Association for 12 years before being elected as MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin in May.
“If there’s a way that organizations can collaborate to make this a success, it would address a well-established critical need in our community,” she said.