North Park neighbours welcomed residents of the latest housing option for those living in Victoria’s parks as 10 to 15 residents moved into the city’s new Tiny Home Village Friday (May 14).
The village, announced in January as a collaboration between BC Housing, the city, and Our Place Society, will house a single resident in each of the 30 units in the Royal Athletic Park parking lot.
Turnover is expected over the village’s 18-month duration as residents are assessed on their level of need and support required. There are no plans to add additional units, said Our Place Society communication director Grant McKenzie, who hopes to see it empty and everyone in permanent housing at that point.
The Tiny Home Village is a relief those in Greater Victoria experiencing homelessness, which increased 40 per cent to 270 between 2016 and 2020. According to the Capital Regional District’s homelessness count and housing needs survey for that year, at least 1,500 people in the CRD were experiencing some form of homelessness in 2020.
“I think for the neighbourhood and for the city, this is really positive,” said North Park resident Katie Fillion. Last year, upwards of 100 private tents were set up in nearby Central Park, she said. When flooding occurred, several moved camp to the parking lot where the village now stands.
“It was really difficult,” said Fillion, who had made close acquaintances with some of those who’d moved to the Royal Athletic parking lot. “People were struggling. There was no hot water, there were no showers. But people really came together as a community.”
Each resident of the Tiny Home Village will have a private bed, mini-fridge, wardrobe and chair, as well as access to shared washroom and storage facilities, said McKenzie. He added that couples will be given their own units to provide a “safe space” in the case of a falling out and that pets will be up to the discretion of staff. Breakfast and dinner will be delivered daily, said McKenzie.
The 160 sq.ft. storage container units – which can get 15 degrees hotter on the inside than outside, according to equipment expertise site Equipment World – have each been fit with a window, vent, heater for cold weather but no air conditioning. McKenzie said eventually installed rooftop gardens will help cool units along with “beautifying” the village.
The goal is to provide those experiencing homelessness with a chance to stabilize their lives.
“Having that proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep, the transformation that you see in people is palpable,” McKenzie said. “All of a sudden, you start to see people gaining weight – healthy weight. It’s like a tremendous exhalation of relief for stress and anxiety.”
From there, residents can determine their next steps, be that addressing mental health, tackling drug dependencies or entering the workforce. Ideally, they’ll become “perfect candidates” for permanent housing, which itself is “badly needed in Victoria,” said McKenzie.
Despite the mix of strong opinions highlighted in local media, North Park resident Kay Gallivan said the neighbourhood has been “very, very positive” towards the village’s development. While painting the walled community’s mural, “residents were shouting messages of support at us, saying that they think it looks terrific and that they’re so glad that this initiative is happening,” she said.
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