City Approves Use of Vacant Property at 1240 Yates Street for Short-term Emergency Shelter

News Release from the City of Victoria December 21, 2015

The City of Victoria plans to lease a vacant City property located at 1240 Yates Street to BC Housing and Our Place to operate an emergency winter shelter, for four months.

Through the operator, Our Place, the shelter will offer 24/7 support services, storage, laundry and daily meals, to 40 people without homes, until April 30. On Friday, BC Housing announced $400,000 in funding for a new shelter. In addition, the United Way of Greater Victoria is contributing $25,000, and the City will invest up to $45,000 to upgrade the facility for its temporary use. Work is underway for the shelter to open the first week of January.

“It’s an emergency when we have approximately 100 people sleeping outside in the cold, wet weather, without washrooms, shelter or security,” noted Mayor Lisa Helps. “Opening this shelter is responsive to both our residents’ concerns, about the impacts tenting is having on their City parks and neighbourhoods, as well as the compassionate concerns residents have for those living outside.”

“The Province is pleased a location has been identified and individuals who require emergency shelter will be offered a warm place to stay at this time of year,” said Minister Rich Coleman. “Opening this shelter will help people transition to supports and services, and ultimately to permanent housing.”

Earlier in the fall, the City of Victoria consulted the community about how best to create shelter for those without homes. The majority of respondents to an online survey and attendees at a ‘sheltering solutions’ workshop supported expanding existing shelters, or using existing vacant buildings for temporary shelters, over expanding options for sheltering in City parks.

The City has met with school and neighbourhood representatives, and has requested a meeting with the Central Middle School Parents Advisory Committee. The School District has expressed concern about this temporary use. The City expects the shelter operator to work closely with all neighboring properties, residents, and the City, to listen to concerns, and mitigate impacts to the neighbourhood. A community meeting will be held at 1240 Yates Street on Wednesday, December 30 at 7 p.m. A neighbourhood agreement and committee will be established based on the input of the neighbours and operators on how temporary shelter can be provided while minimizing impacts to the neighbourhood.

Mayor Helps added, “City Council’s focus is squarely on creating more affordable and supportive housing in Victoria. This is a temporary measure for these members of our community most in need right now. It will require the positive cooperation and will of all involved to make this a success.”

The long term future of the property at 1240 Yates Street is actively being explored and is being considered as part of the redevelopment of the Victoria Fire Department Headquarters.

· In 2015, 89 supportive and affordable housing units were approved for funding through the Victoria Housing Reserve Fund
· An additional 149 affordable rental units funded through the Victoria Housing Reserve Fund currently are under construction in Victoria and scheduled for completion within the next year
· In December, the City of Victoria approved $75,000 to support 40 rent supplements for Pacifica Housing’s Streets to Homes Program, which houses people, with supports in the private market.
· The City of Victoria recently successfully obtained regional support to borrow $30 million to fund affordable housing projects, and is seeking matching Provincial funds.

Approximately 400-500 people who are homeless live in Victoria. According to the Coalition to End Homelessness reports, there are a minimum 367 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness in Greater Victoria. Due to the inexact nature of shelter data and analysis, this number could be as high as 479 individuals.

About the Author:

President of the FCA since 2006.