'We didn't get lucky': Victoria, province to miss deadline on housing homeless
VICTORIA -- The City of Victoria and BC Housing say that all unsheltered people living outdoors in local parks will be offered indoor housing by the end of April, one month later than the government's original target.
The province says that while enough shelter space has been secured, retrofitting work is still required in many of the spaces, which will push move-in dates to the end of next month.
"Although we had hoped to secure additional buildings that were ready to go for housing, and BC Housing chased down several leads, we didn’t get lucky," said David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing, in an announcement Thursday.
"We’ll need the extra weeks to prepare the two new secured sites for use as shelter before moving folks inside," he said.
Homeless advocates say waiting until shelter space is ready is the safest thing to do for everyone.
"If we kicked everybody out of the parks without giving them a place to go, downtown Victoria would become very, very turbulent," said Grant McKenzie, director of communications for Our Place Society.
"You would go back to people living in doorways and stairwells and it just wouldn't be safe for anybody," he said.
In the meantime, people are being moved indoors as housing comes available over the next several weeks.
Once all the emergency shelter sites are open by April 30, each will be managed by a non-profit service provider. Staff will be on-site 24/7 and shelters will offer meal programs, health and wellness support services, and life skills training, according to the B.C. government.
"The province and BC Housing have worked really hard and everyone currently living in the parks will be offered an indoor space as a pathway to permanent housing," said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
"Parks are not homes. Once all of the offers have been made and all the spaces open, the city will once again prohibit 24/7 sheltering," she said.
The province estimates that there are at least 200 unsheltered people living in Victoria.
BC Housing notes that several emergency sheltering projects have already come online, such as reopening the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre for temporary housing.