British Columbia

Victoria seniors' facility under consideration for possible homeless housing

Residents of Oak Bay Lodge are relocating to new building and the Capital Regional District board of directors has passed a motion to look into moving people living on the streets into the facility.

Residents of Oak Bay Lodge are moving to a new building, freeing up over 200 beds

Homeless people, young and old are living in public parks around Victoria, some in tents, others wrapped in plastic tarps and blankets. Mayor Lisa Helps says she expects to see the number of people experiencing homelessness to increase and not improve anytime soon. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

People living on the streets in Victoria, B.C., could have the opportunity to move into a soon-to-be vacant seniors' home this summer.

Residents at Oak Bay Lodge are being relocated this month to a new facility and the Capital Regional District (CRD) board of directors has identified the building at 2251 Cadboro Bay Rd. as possible temporary housing for the area's homeless.

The idea stems from a motion put to the board Wednesday by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps that was unanimously approved. 

"I don't think anyone in good conscience could have a publicly-owned vacant building with people living outside," said Helps Thursday in an interview on On The Island.

She said CRD staff will now be speaking with Island Health and B.C. Housing to see how feasible the plan is, and the province will be required to play a role in providing support services for incoming residents if the plan is green-lit.

Supports would be available

The B.C. government has already purchased the Comfort Inn Hotel and Paul's Motor Inn in the capital city to house people living homeless during the pandemic. At those sites, residents receive meals, health-care services, storage for personal belongings, as well as addictions treatment and harm reduction.

"There is a level of anxiety that just disappears ... particularly when the province supplies the supports and help they need," said Helps, adding people with the highest needs will be prioritized if and when residents are selected.

She said she also understands concerns from people about living near temporary housing facilities for the homeless who may have witnessed aggressive behaviour in parks and streets the homeless frequent.

"There is a lot of fear and I hear that and I get it," said the mayor. "[but] when people move into safe secure housing they begin to stabilize."

Helps said CRD will take possession of the building, which has 235 beds, in August.

Residents currently living at Oak Bay Lodge are relocating to The Summit, a new 320-bed seniors long-term care home at 955 Hillside Ave. 

With files from On The Island