British Columbia

Victoria's homeless could get storage facility

The City of Victoria is looking at building a storage facility for homeless people so they can safely store their belongings, freeing them up to move forward with their lives.

Facility could be modelled after First United Church's in Vancouver

First United Church operates a storage program for Vancouver's homeless that allows up to 200 people to store their belongings free of charge. (First United Church)

The City of Victoria is looking at building a storage facility for homeless people so they can safely store their belongings, freeing them up to move forward with their lives.

The idea is based on an existing facility run by the First United Church in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

"We saw that a really big barrier to people exiting homelessness was that they couldn't attend appointments or apply for jobs or go to housing applications because they couldn't bring their stuff with them.  They had shopping carts or things like that," First United Church's Heather Forbes told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

"It was really affecting their upward mobility. And that's where we got the idea … just so people could have the mobility to improve their own lives."

The Vancouver facility offers 200 storage spaces for homeless people to store their belongings so they don't have to watch over their possessions all day as they live their lives.

Since late 2009, users have been able to drop off their items, usually in large plastic totes but sometimes they even accept entire shopping carts.

Forbes says the 200 spaces at the church are full almost every night, and they do have to turn people away.

Encouraging caring contact

The storage space is a secure area that only church staff can access. That means users need to interact with the staff people there, which Forbes says is an important aspect that Victoria should replicate if they go forward with such a program.

"Having that point of contact where people check in every day," she said. "[Users] might not have a lot of contact with people, especially not a caring person who gets to know them through daily contact."

Forbes also says that any similar facility in Victoria should be convenient and accessible, and be a place where referrals to other services can be made.

The City of Victoria will receive a staff report this week about the feasibility of such a facility.


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Victoria considering storage facility for homeless people's items

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