VICTORIA -- As the cold, wet weather approaches, Victoria’s street community becomes more vulnerable to the winter weather.

Our Place Society has erected three large tents in its courtyard to help people shelter and keep warm through the region’s coldest months. Staff say the shelters will give people who access the agency’s services a place to keep dry and warm.

“Its new for us but I think it’s something the family members that we support will really appreciate,” said Our Pace Society spoksperson Grant McKenzie. “There is a real big shortage of day shelter so we’re trying to cover up our courtyard so at least people can get in out of the wet and rain.”

For years, Our Place has served the needs of hundreds of people from Victoria’s street community during the winter months. When it was forced to reduce the capacity of its Pandora Avenue drop-in centre from 600 people to 40 due to COVID-19, the agency looked to the courtyard to enhance capacity.

“People will line up under these tents before they get a meal, so it will probably be an extra 50 people that will be under there getting some warmth before coming in,” said McKenzie. “We have COVID protocols throughout the building inside so we will be putting signs down and measurements for the tents as well.”

In the coming weeks as the temperature outside continues to drop, Our Place will install propane heaters in the tent shelters to help keep people warm. McKenzie says that despite being in the midst of a pandemic, Our Place has been serving between 600 to 800 meals a day from its Pandora Avenue location

“People lining up for that are sometimes really miserable when it’s wet,” said McKenzie. “People who are wet because they have been camping all night will be able to come under the tents and dry out a little bit and then get a nice hot meal.” 

By erecting the tents, Our Place hopes it is providing shelter to the street community it serves when it is most needed.

“There really is a pandemic of homelessness that’s happening right now,” said McKenzie. “So we’re trying to do everything we can to support as many people as we can in this trying time.”