VICTORIA -- Victoria’s largest arena and entertainment venue will once again serve as a homeless shelter, the provincial government announced Wednesday.

The Save-On-Foods Memorial centre will shelter approximately 45 people who are homeless, beginning on March 1. The site will provide beds, meals, washrooms, health services and addictions treatment for unhoused people in the city, said Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing, David Eby.

Back in May, the centre was converted into temporary housing for dozens of people who had been sheltering in city parks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another agreement has been signed with the centre’s operators to provide the same shelter and support services through to the end of May, with options to extend beyond the lease if necessary.

“We are glad to have once again been given the opportunity to serve Greater Victoria by providing our facility as a temporary emergency response centre,” said Graham Lee, president of arena operator GSL Group.

“We found it imperative, as a member of this community, to be a part of the solution by working with BC Housing to make our facility available to vulnerable individuals,” Lee said.

The PHS Community Services Society will again operate the temporary shelter, as it did from May to the end of September last year.

Homeless people will be prioritized for shelter in the arena, based on applications to BC Housing and referrals from Island Health and community groups.

Those who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 will be given priority access to the 45 shelter beds, as will Indigenous people, those who are older than 55 with pre-existing health conditions and those experiencing long-term homelessness.

“This is fantastic news, and we’re extremely grateful to Minister Eby, the province and BC Housing for their leadership and investment in transitional housing for Victoria’s most vulnerable residents,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps in a statement Wednesday.

“We continue to offer our full support as we all work together towards the goal of having everyone currently sheltering in city parks inside by March 31, on a pathway to permanent housing with supports as needed,” Helps added.