On a cold night in February of this year, a team of volunteers, housing advocates and university students spread out across Greater Victoria to find out how many people were accessing shelters and other forms of temporary housing.
What they found wasn’t much different from a similar count in 2011, according to Andrew Wynn-Williams, executive director of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness: 1,167 people, including 116 children, were sleeping on cots and thin mattresses in local shelters or in motels throughout the region.
“The number of families counted increases when hotels and motels are included in the facility count,” says the count’s lead researcher, Marika Albert. “For me, this means that hotels and motels are often seen as the only affordable option for families experiencing homelessness, which is deplorable and an important indication that we are far from addressing the affordable housing crisis in the region.”
Many families in housing crisis can face a steep climb when they lack family support. There are a total of two shelter units available to families on a short-term basis in the entire CRD at Rock Bay Landing. And the Burnside-Gorge Community Association offers the region’s only in-person family housing assistance program.
Most of the 264 families they helped last year were on the cusp of losing their homes, while one in 10 were outright homeless. Some people end up in local motels and hear little from B.C. Housing.
The region hasn’t been idle. Since 2008, there have been 274 supportive housing units and 350 affordable housing units built.
But it’s clear families aren’t able to access services and stable housing with anything close to a timely manner.
The Coalition recommends implementing “rapid rehousing initiatives” to help in crisis situations, a move that should garner support across all levels of government. It’s also time the federal government stepped up and created a fully funded national housing strategy to play its part in the housing fix.
Otherwise, families will continue to be left out on the cold.