The principal of Victoria's Central Middle School says its relationship with the new homeless shelter next door is going swimmingly, despite earlier concerns to the contrary.
When the My Place Transitional Home opened up at the old Boys and Girls Club last month to house homeless campers from the Victoria court house lawn, many expressed apprehension about safety and security at the school.
But those concerns never materialized, principal Christopher MacIntosh says.
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"I had other meetings with Don [Evans, executive director of My Place] and his staff to make it really clear what we needed as a school. I'll say right from the start, they were very receptive and accommodating," MacIntosh told All Points West host Robyn Burns.
"He and his staff have been very, very effective in meeting our needs. Day to day, the kids don't see any real evidence of the fact that there's a shelter in the building aside from a security guard outside."
The new shelter has not been entirely without impact, however. MacIntosh says the school district is now paying extra in security and clean-up costs, to the tune of $44,000 — although some of that money reflects reallocated staff, and not extra spending.
"There have been extra staff hired for the evening shutdown and district employees who are sweeping the grounds in the morning," MacIntosh said, noting the morning staff are there to make sure nothing harmful has been left on school grounds overnight.
Meet the neighbours
The students, however, are getting to know their neighbours in a big way.
MacIntosh said they will be cooking a community meal for the residents on Thursday, and some will also be making a large mural for the currently bare walls inside the shelter.
"It didn't surprise me that once we were underway with this shelter that our students and staff would embrace it. And they have," MacIntosh said.
"Probably about a week and a half after the political conversations had stopped, students were at my door saying, 'If everyone's finished now, we'd like to get on and welcome these people to the neighbourhood.'"
The My Place Transitional Home is home to 40 homeless people, and will remain open until the end of April.
To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Principal says his school and nearby homeless shelter are becoming good neighbours