When the doors of the former Boys and Girls Club reopen as a temporary housing facility this Wednesday (Nov. 29), the reception will be a little warmer.
Earlier this month, Victoria city council unanimously granted the application to lease the property at 1240 Yates St. to Our Place to operate My Place Transitional Home, on behalf of BC Housing. On Wednesday, 40 tenants will move into the facility – who provides residents with meals, shower facilities, individual beds and a place to store their things. They will reside there until April 30.
“This is a real stable community that’s moving in there,” said Grant McKenzie, Our Place director of communications. “It’s going to be a dry facility, no drug use, lights out at 9 0’clock.”
In the spring, McKenzie said, the objective is to move these people into more permanent housing. Because these residents are sober, he added they will make good candidates for places like Mount Edwards Court, operated by the Cool Aid Society on Vancouver Street.
“These people are the working poor,” McKenzie pointed out. “People who have just fallen through the cracks and fallen on hard times and are looking to get their lives back.”
Coun. Charlayne Thornton Joe, who is council’s liaison to the Fernwood neighbourhood, noted the community’s receptivity to the project seems noticeably different this year. She said that while the security and staffing are the same, the way My Place operates will be different.
“We have addressed some of the concerns we heard in the past, and the model has changed,” she said.
Previous residents came from tent city or from the streets, but this year, the people receiving housing have been staying at First Metropolitan Church where they have been vetted and assessed. Along with a spot at My Place will come responsibilities for the tenants, including monitoring and upkeep of the grounds, which McKenzie said makes a difference.
“The school has said they found it much nicer when we were there because we take care of things,” he said. “It’s much more comfortable and stable than a shelter.”
Central Middle School principal Christoper McIntosh said the school is “quite comfortable” with the new arrangement. Despite initial misgivings when the shelter opened last year, he staff, parents and students the school became accustomed to the neighbours after a time.
“A couple of our Grade 8 classes had interactions [with previous residents] through events they put on for them, and they shared a couple of meals with them,” he said, noting those gatherings were in a controlled environment. “I would say it was very successful, and the reality is that our kids learned a lot.”
– With files from Lauren Boothby