Shelter spaces coming online as Victoria races towards homeless housing deadline
VICTORIA -- By March 31, the City of Victoria and the province have committed to housing all unsheltered people living in the city.
“I think the latest number that BC Housing has on its list is over 200 (people),” said Lisa Helps, the Mayor of Victoria. “So somewhere between 200 and 220.”
People are already beginning to move inside. The Save-On-Food Memorial Arena opened its doors to 45 campers on Monday.
“The arena will hopefully be full by the end of the week,” said Helps.
The Capital City Centre Hotel, which was leased by the province but heavily damaged when a fire broke out in a suite in early November, has been repaired. People will begin to move back into those units next week.
Meanwhile, shipping containers are being transformed behind Capital Iron in downtown Victoria to be used as temporary housing.
“We’ve had the first 15 shipping containers delivered to focus on the first 15 homes that are going to be built out for our community's most vulnerable,” said Melanie Ransom, marketing and communications manager with Aryze Developments.
Each container will be divided into three, 100-square foot units.
“(We are) beginning with the metal fabrication for the windows and the doors,” said Ransom.
“We will be framing them out, we will be insulating them. They will be finished with a plywood interior and they will feel like homes,” she said.
The converted containers will be moved to the parking lot of Royal Athletic Park, which is the site of a current outdoor sheltering area.
The plan is to complete 15 "tiny homes" before the March 31 deadline. Fifteen additional tiny homes will be built and moved to the parking lot the following month.
“We have lots that’s coming online, we need more and so work continues,” said David Eby, the Attorney General of British Columbia Tuesday.
BC Housing continues to look for hotels or motels that can be purchased or even apartment buildings that can easily be converted to shelter spaces.
“BC Housing has identified a number of potential opportunities that they’re chasing down,” said Eby. “We’re not quite at the number that we want to have to respond to not just people in the tents, but the people that might also show up looking for housing once we move people inside.”
Eby says those people are homeless individuals that have not yet been identified because they are not currently living in a city park.
The province has also added 50 rent-supplemented housing units to the region, in addition to the more than 700 that are currently in the Capital Region.
“When they move out of supportive housing with the rent supplement into the private market, it opens up a space in supportive housing,” said Eby.
There is a lot going on behind the scenes, but is it enough to make the government's March 31 deadline?
“I think we’re going to make it by the end of the month,” said Eby. “I’m very hopeful.”