British Columbia

Homeless shelter: More spaces to open in Victoria in response to tent city

The Minister responsible for housing says provincial and city staff are searching for a location for a new homeless shelter that will be open around the clock and will offer meals.

More than 50 people are now camping on the lawn of the courthouse

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

The province is promising more shelter space in response to the growing number of homeless campers who have taken up residence on the lawn of the courthouse in Victoria.

The minister responsible for housing, Rich Coleman, said provincial and City of Victoria staff are working to find a location for the new shelter, which will be open around the clock and will offer meals.

"We think that the shelter with meals might be a bit more attractive to try to stabilize some of that population, to bring them in," he said.

"We will know in the next couple of weeks if that is having any success."

The shelter space will stay open until April at a cost of about $380,000, which will be split between B.C. Housing, the Ministry of Health and the City of Victoria, Coleman said.

More than 50 people are now camping on the lawn of the courthouse in Victoria.

More than 50 people are now camping on the lawn of the courthouse in Victoria. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

The property is owned by the province and has proved popular because it's not subject to the city bylaw that forces homeless campers in parks to move each morning.

But the offer of space at a shelter may not be enough for some who have chosen to pitch their tent.

John Bertrim and his wife Laurel Hanuse moved to the courthouse camp last week.

The couple said they have tried using shelters in the city before, but found them to be chaotic and didn't offer a place to store their belongings.

"We are trying to make a statement, that yeah, there's a lot of people out there that don't have homes," Bertrim said of their decision to camp at the courthouse.

Coleman declined to comment on whether the province will force all of the campers to leave the courthouse lawn once the new shelter space is open.

In the meantime, the province has delivered portable washrooms and garbage cans to address health concerns at the campsite.

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