Tenant trades garbage bags for unit at Queens Manor in Victoria

Mayor proud of city’s commitment to latest housing project

For the first time in 18 months

Wade Churcott was facing the prospect of a cold night on the ground when he got the call that changed his luck.

Eighteen months ago the 39-year-old Victoria man lost his home. At first, he bounced from shelter to shelter, but it just wasn’t working out.

“I was barred from Salvation Army, I was barred from Rock Bay Landing … and I was barred from the sobering centre,” he said.

Drugs and alcohol made talking too easy, he explained. “Sometimes you say things that you regret, and there’s consequences and you have to suck it up and tough it out.”

Toughing it out for Churcott meant sleeping outside, under the awning of Castle Building Centre on Cook Street.

“The only place I could go to hang out during the day was Our Place,” he said.

Churcott was at the Pandora Street facility eating dinner recently when two garbage bags he had stashed under a nearby bush went missing.

Inside the bags were all his possessions, including six blankets and other essentials.

“I thought, ‘oh no, I’m going to be out in the rain with no blankets,’” he recalled.

That’s when the Victoria Cool Aid Society called.

Despite his active addiction and his bad track record at other shelters, Cool Aid offered him a unit in the newly-renovated Queens Manor, a supportive housing facility.

The news brought him to tears.

“It was a miracle,” he said. “I just wanted to take my shirt off and sleep in my underwear like a normal person.”

Churcott moved into his new home in late September. He slept for three days.

In 2010, the City of Victoria purchased the former Traveller’s Inn motel at the corner of Queens Avenue and Douglas Street. With support from four funding partners and Cool Aid, the city began renovating one floor at a time.

The $5.5-million project has officially wrapped up. Now dubbed Queens Manor, the facility contains 36 units, has support staff attached and houses people who were formerly homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“I’m proud of the leadership shown by the City of Victoria on this project,” Mayor Dean Fortin said at a press conference Friday.

“The city took the plunge, the team made it happen and the end result is as it should be.”

Ownership of the building will soon transfer to the province, which has agreed to purchase it from the city.

With an easy confidence, Churcott took his place in the limelight after Fortin.

“You’ve all played a part in getting me off the street,” he said to a room full of politicians and agency workers in the building’s  lobby. “I’m an addict, but I’m a person first and foremost.”

A home gives a person time to think, he explained.

“To be able to have a place to call your own, it’s the most dignifying feeling a person can have when they’ve come from such a low place …

“I’m not running around doing stupid things anymore.”

rholmen@vicnews.com

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