BC Housing ensures that by March 31, shelter will be available to all people living outside. (Black Press Media file photo)

BC Housing ensures that by March 31, shelter will be available to all people living outside. (Black Press Media file photo)

All unhoused Victoria residents will be offered shelter by March 31, says BC Housing

BC Housing working to secure shelter locations in coming weeks

The plan to get unhoused Victorians into indoor shelter by March 31 is still on, says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

Roughly 200 people are living in the region’s parks, the mayor says, but BC Housing has promised each of them will be offered housing by the end of March.

“We expect to have sufficient dignified, inside spaces for everyone now sheltering in Victoria parks by the end of March,” said an emailed statement from BC Housing. “As well as extra beds for those individuals who may not have been counted previously.”

Finding staff for new housing spaces has been a challenge, the statement said. But a variety of options are being considered, including temporary and permanent housing.

Victoria plans to reinstate city bylaws prohibiting public camping from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Come April 1, anyone living outside will have to pack up their belongings every morning.

“I know the province is looking under every rock and pursuing as many opportunities as they can to find those additional spaces,” Helps said.

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Several shelter spaces are already designated for use, Helps notes. The Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre arena offers 45 spaces, container homes being built in Royal Athletic Park will provide 30, and another 40 spaces will be made available at the Capital CityCenter Hotel once an area damaged by a recent fire is restored.

The youth hostel on Yates Street has 17 spots remaining.

“Everybody knows that an arena is not a home, and even a motel or a hotel is not a home,” Helps said. “And so really, the efforts that are being made over the next 31 days are to get people in off the street and out of the parks.”

It’s been nearly a year since 24/7 camping has been permitted in the city after the COVID-19 pandemic reduced shelter space.

“I think we’ve been doing a balancing act as best we can,” Helps said. “But I would say that a tent is not a home and a park is not a home. And that’s why we set a deadline.”

READ ALSO: Petition demands Victoria ‘save Beacon Hill Park’


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