British Columbia

B.C. opens emergency response shelter inside arena using pop-up pods

Victoria's Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre will house 45 beds for people currently living in encampments.

Victoria's Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre to house 45 beds for people who are homeless

Pop-up pods are being set up inside Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre to move people who have been living at tent-city encampments in Victoria. (CBC)

A Victoria arena is set to become the province's first emergency response centre using pop-up pods for people who are homeless.

Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre will house 45-beds along with supports and services to people who are living in encampments on the Pandora Avenue corridor and Topaz Park in Victoria.

"It's a good option in that we have lots of room there to ensure safe physical distancing," said Shane Simpson, minister of social development and poverty reduction. "It provides good access to hygiene, to washrooms, to showers, and the ability to bring food in."

B.C. has enacted a public safety order to move homeless people living in tent city encampments in Vancouver and Victoria during the pandemic by May 9.

Simpson says government representatives are expected to meet with all those affected prior to the deadline. Enforcement will come later.

Each of the pods are spaced apart accordingly to maintain physical distancing, where people can stay two metres away from one another. (CBC)

According to the province, about 360 people have been living at the encampments and 92 of them have been moved into temporary accommodations so far which include hotels and hostels.

"We have two health crises," said Simpson, referring to COVID-19 and the persistent opioid crisis. "This is the opportunity for us to move forward and address this."

'Positive news'

Those who have been working with the homeless campers say the move is welcomed one.

"I heard from one guy who said he's going to have his ... first bath in several years and how excited he was about that," said Grant Mackenzie, director of communications for Our Place. "There definitely is ... some positive news coming out of that."

The concern though, he says, is what happens to the temporary shelter after the pandemic. He says he's yet to hear about plans for long-term housing.

Simpson is promising more permanent housing such as modular housing in future. But, he says, that will require further investment from several levels of government.

The province says the pods are quick to set up and it has plans to expand them at other emergency response centres.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story gave an incorrect deadline for when people are to move from tent encampments. The correct date is May 9.
    May 05, 2020 6:33 PM PT

About the Author

Lien Yeung

@LienYeung

Lien Yeung is a host and reporter with CBC Vancouver News. She has covered stories locally and nationally from Halifax to Victoria on television, radio and online. Find her on Instagram or Twitter @LienYeung or via email at lien.yeung@cbc.ca.

With files from Kieran Oudshoorn

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