British Columbia

'It's disgusting in there:' Life in the building that replaced Victoria's tent city

The people who live at 844 Johnson St.,, the building where Victoria's tent city residents were moved, say they have concerns that aren't being heard. They say conditions have deteriorated in the three years since the building opened: that the building is filthy and staff are ill-equipped.

Residents say their concerns about the building haven't been heard

Wolf Montey moved from Victoria's tent city to 844 Johnson St., when the tent city was shut down in 2017. She says conditions have deteriorated over the past three years. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC)

Some residents of supportive housing in Victoria say they have concerns about life there — but no one is listening. 

They live at 844 Johnson St., which was set up when Victoria's tent city was shut down in 2016. The building provides rooms with a bed and a small bathroom, shared showers on each floor, plus two meals a day, a health clinic, some mental health supports, medical services and a supervised consumption site. 

Resident Moe Baldwin says it also has mice and cockroaches. She rents a room at 844 Johnson, but says she tries not to spend too much time there. 

"It's filthy, it's disgusting in there," she said. 

She says she'd love to move out, but there's nowhere else for her to go. She's asked BC Housing for a transfer, but there isn't any other affordable housing available for her. 

Tension in the building

Wolf Montey says 844 Johnson is her home, and the residents are her family. She doesn't want to move — but she would like to see changes in the building. 

She thinks some residents need more mental health support than they're getting, and she says staff don't seem equipped to deal with all the people who live there. Some of the residents can seem aggressive she says, but most wouldn't act on it. Police are often called when there's conflict, but she says that only exacerbates tense situations. 

A total of 147 people live at 844 Johnson St. They pay $375 a month for a room in the supportive housing complex. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC )

"If you have to pull a uniform into it and that's where you get a major problem, because most of us would react rather negatively toward them," said Montey, who says many residents, herself included, have had bad experiences with police.

Both Montey and Baldwin say they've flagged concerns to the building operators, PHS Community Services and BC Housing. 

'Some things are working' 

BC Housing says 844 Johnson St. is largely a success. When it came together in 2016, it was a scramble: the tent city was shutting down, and its residents needed somewhere to go.

Heidi Hartmann, BC Housing's director of operations for Vancouver Island, says two-thirds of those residents are still in the building, and that's good news

"Many of the individuals that were at the camp back at the courthouse, they were individuals who had previously been barred at shelters. They'd been evicted from housing, and we often heard this term "unhouseable." So the fact that 66 per cent remain there after three years shows that some things are working."

Workers remove material from Victoria' tent city in August 2016. When the tent city was shut down, residents were moved to 844 Johnson St. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Hartmann says BC Housing is happy with how PHS Community Services is running the building. But she says there's room for improvement, and her organization wants to hear from residents when they have concerns.

She says  PHS is also required to have a complaints resolution process in place for residents. 

Montey says she's not aware of any resolution process. 

PHS Community Services declined to comment. 


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