It’s been nearly a year since tents have been allowed to stay up around-the-clock in many Victoria parks, and now the goal to get the folks living in them into indoor housing is just over five weeks away.
The province’s housing minister, David Eby, stuck by that promise today.
“By the end of March, we will have enough spaces to get people inside,” said Eby on Tuesday.
Three-hundred people have already been housed since last March -- including in hotels bought by the province.
But there are still about 200 people sleeping outside in the city.
Projects like the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre – that’s reopening on March 1 as a shelter for 45 people, along with the tiny homes made from shipping containers pegged for the parking lot by Royal Athletic Park for the end of March – will help lower that total.
Eby is confident the remaining housing will be found between now and the end of March.
“We are overshooting the number of spaces we think we need,” he said Tuesday in a zoom presentation hosted by Victoria’s Chamber of Commerce.
Exactly what form that extra housing will take isn’t confirmed, but Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is also confident in the timeline.
“(There's) no reason to doubt that there will be at least 200 spaces available – and announced – well in advance of March 31,” said Helps
Bruce Williams with the Victoria Chamber of Commerce says that while the violence and spike in downtown property crimes associated with the tent cities might be front-of-mind for many, addressing the root problems should be as well.
"The core of the entire thing is these people do not have a home and many of them are living with a mental illness," said Williams.
That’s a sentiment echoed by Our Place's spokesperson, Grant Mckenzie, who points out that most who are living in tents are not criminals, but are vulnerable to those few predators who are.
“If we can decrease the survival mode by getting them into housing, by having the proper supports around them, then that should decrease the criminal element,” said Mckenzie.
Whether temporary housing is actually found for those in the city's parks in time for the goal to be met will be known in just over five weeks.