VICTORIA -- A fundraising campaign to convert shipping containers into self-contained homes for Victoria’s unhoused population has reached its halfway point.

That means that the vision of a local developer to provide rapid housing for people living in parks will soon be a reality. A fundraiser launched in partnership between Aryze Developments and the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness has raised almost $240,000 of its $500,000 goal to provide housing for people currently living in tents.

“There’s no point sitting on half the funds raised, so if we can provide 15 homes for people, let’s do it,” said Aryze Developments partner Luke Mari. “We are mobilizing a team and because its all about building the most homes we are able to donate our team’s resources to stretch the dollars even further.”

Mari says the development company is currently speaking with a number of different shipping container suppliers to begin the tiny home conversions in early February.

“We’re starting to work with our suppliers and trades to get the materials ordered to start construction as soon as possible,” said Mari. “We’re not operator specialist like the Coalition to End Homelessness is in the supportive housing field but it doesn’t mean that we don’t have expertise to help to build homes.”

Mari says each tiny home will be 160-square-feet and be self-contained with a bed, desk, hot plate and refrigerator. He says there will also be a central unit that will house shared shower and washroom facilities.

“We build full market housing but now we are also having a tangible impact on our city’s most vulnerable,” said Mari. “That to us is social responsibility.”

One woman who has been living in a tent in various Victoria parks since March 2020 says living in a home converted from a shipping container would change her life. She says living in the parking lot at Royal Athletic Park after being displaced from Central Park after it flooded has been very difficult and at times isolating.

“It would be absolutely amazing. It would be something that’s stable and I can actually bring my life back to what it used to be,” said Rita Webster. “I could actually get a job, I could be stable because stabilization is a huge thing when it comes to something like this, and it would be huge for some of us that’s for sure.”

Staff with the Coalition to End Homelessness say the tiny homes offer people living in parks another housing option.

“Every opportunity and situation means that there is one less person experiencing homelessness,” said Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness executive director Kelly Roth. “If we can get up to 30 homes, that’s 30 people not experiencing homelessness.”

Roth says the converted shipping containers are a “game-changer” as a rapid response to housing for people who are currently unsheltered.

“As we’ve seen with our recent snowstorm, tents provide very minimal shelter,” said Roth. “As an interim opportunity until permanent housing is in place, (tiny homes) are a great strategy in how we can respond right now.”

Mari says he hopes that converting the first 15 of the 30 containers into homes will encourage more people to donate to the crowdsourcing project. He also hopes to show the B.C. government that the tiny homes are a viable alternate solution in providing homes for the unhoused population.

“We’ve talked with BC Housing and I think they are supportive of watching and seeing how this pilot project goes,” said Mari. “If it is successful, I think there is interest from the province in helping support future projects.”

For more information on the tiny home project visit the Aryze Developments website here.