Victoria homeless at courthouse get transitional housing

A temporary shelter with a focus on privacy, transition and community will house 40 of the approximately 120 people currently camping on a Victoria courthouse lawn.

Courthouse lawn now home to about 120 homeless campers, and has been growing for months

The tent city on the courthouse lawn, as it appeared in November, when approximately 50 people were living there. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

A temporary shelter will open its doors in downtown Victoria on Tuesday with space for 40 of the approximately 120 people currently camping at the provincial courthouse.

The My Place Transitional Home is located at the former Boys and Girls Club on Yates Street and will be open until the end of April.

The facility is different from other shelters in that it's not the typical open-concept shelter: instead, its rooms are filled with brand-new tents, set up indoors, to create a degree of privacy for users.

Don Evans, executive director of Our Place Society, the organization is operating the transitional home, says that decision came from listening to the needs of those camping on the courthouse lawn.

"They said they wouldn't go into a shelter. Many of them have tried it, they've had negative experiences," he said.

"One of the biggest things they asked for was privacy and their own space so they could have their own belongings and not have to worry about losing things or things being taken."

Evans says users will get three meals a day and have access to showers, an art and music room and a TV room.

"It's going to be different. People are going to have chores to do, we're also going to have income opportunities … it's going to be a lot different from a normal shelter where people just stay at night," he said.

Mayor wants shelter to serve as transition

Victoria mayor Lisa Helps was one of many volunteers on site this weekend helping to set up My Place.
She says the goal of the facility is to truly make it a transitional one by getting more permanent housing options ready for the first 40 people living there when the shelter closes in April.

"We've got four months to get some of those first 40 housed through rent supplements and other means," she told All Points West host Robyn Burns. "So it's almost a hybrid between transitional housing and a more traditional shelter."

Helps says the shelter's location across the street from Central Middle School has given some concerns to residents.

"Those [concerns] are our marching orders to make sure none of the things that people are afraid of come to be, and if they do, we fix them as soon as possible," she said.

Helps believes that more progress on homelessness will be made if the province increases funding for the region.

John Bertrim and his wife Laurel Hanuse had been camping in city parks but hoped moving to the courthouse lawn would help bring attention to their situation. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

To hear the full interview with Mayor Lisa Helps, click the audio labelled: Shelter opens to help 40 of 120 campers at Victoria courthouse


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