Victoria shelter residents to transition to temporary housing space in former Saanich hospital
Clinical services and support will continue for those relocated to a shelter at former Mount Tolmie Hospital
The B.C. government's temporary lease of the Save-On Foods Memorial Arena in downtown Victoria for use as an emergency shelter has come to an end, but it has a plan.
The province says it has secured another temporary space in the now vacant Mount Tolmie Hospital in the neighbouring municipality of Saanich.
This week, B.C. Housing will start moving 43 people to the new shelter space, which will be utilized for the next year, as well as to other housing sites in the area.
Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said he expects 35 people will be relocated to the hospital, but is still waiting for final numbers from the province.
"This is really a situation where people will be graduating out of this temporary housing to permanent supportive housing," he told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.
In the new space, residents will have their own rooms, with doors, for a level of privacy shelter space does not offer. Haynes said there is a combination of shared and single rooms.
The agreement with the arena was unable to continue because the International Basketball Federation is set to host the Olympic Qualifying Tournament there from June 29 to July 4.
PHS Community Services Society, which has been operating the shelter at the arena, will continue to provide services at the new space. Island Health will also stay with the project and continue to offer harm reduction and clinical services.
"We've seen first-hand the positive impact safe and secure shelter has on people experiencing homelessness, as well as the broader community," B.C.'s Attorney General and Housing Minister David Eby said in a statement.
"We have worked hard over the last year to move people living outdoors inside and we don't want to send people back to living on the streets. This new Mount Tolmie Hospital shelter will allow guests to have rooms of their own and ensure they can continue to access the supports they need so that their journey to wellness is not interrupted."
Haynes said that while the project belongs to B.C. Housing and Island Health, Saanich has a role to play in helping people on Vancouver Island access safe housing.
"We're working on bringing holistic housing solutions to a range of complex housing needs from across the whole spectrum," he said.
"These people who are in housing, they're the sons and daughters, the brothers and sisters of many residents. So it seems to me that we have to be able to take a holistic approach to housing solutions."
Residents have been contacting him to voice their concerns with the shelter, but he said that this is out of the district's hands. He advises residents to contact B.C. Housing, who is in charge of the project.
"I think the first few months will be quite critical in seeing how it's going to land in the community then over the 12 months to see how well it's managed," he said.
LISTEN | Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes speaks with On the Island host Gregor Craigie:
With files from On the Island