Media arrive at "InTent City" to get the reaction from those living on the site. Photo by Photo by Linzy Nelson

The homeless campers at “InTent City” on Victoria’s courthouse lawn were served notices today from provincial representatives – they must vacate the area by Feb 25th due to safety concerns.

The notice was given at the same time the province announced it had secured two properties for transitional housing and shelter. The notice stated the province is creating 88 units of transitional housing and shelter, and will provide 40 rent supplements for campers currently residing at the Victoria courthouse lawns.

B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman announced that the province has purchased the Mount Edwards Court Care Home on Vancouver Street from the Baptist Housing Society for $3.65 million. It will create 38 transitional housing units, operated by the Victoria Cool Aid Society.

The units, which will rent for $375 a month, will open by Feb. 23 and will available for the next 12 months. Island Health will also provide clinical support services at the site.

As reported earlier in the week by the Times Colonist, the former Victoria Youth Custody Centre in View Royal will be converted into a 50-unit shelter, with room for 20 tents in the courtyard. It will be operated by Our Place Society.

The state-of-the-art facility will be called Choices Transitional Home. These 50 beds will be added to the 40 spaces at the former Boys and Girls Club that were made available in December, now known as My Place Transitional Home. There are also 45 units of transitional housing being operated at Our Place on Pandora.

“We are excited to offer people a choice to be indoors or outdoors. This state-of-the-art facility can deliver secure and stable shelter with access to food, hot showers, laundry and programs,” says Don Evans, executive director of Our Place. “The members of tent city have been asking for a place where they can still camp outdoors, but with access to the necessities they need. The Choices Transitional Home will provide so much more.”

Residents will have hot meals, showers, laundry, daily shuttle service to downtown Victoria, mental health and addiction support, and the ability to work one-on-one with housing support workers to secure permanent housing. The View Royal shelter will be open for approximately six months.

View Royal Mayor David Screech said the homeless issue is a regional problem and all jurisdictions must be part of the solution. “With that philosophy, we are prepared to support Victoria and B.C. Housing’s initiative to use the youth custody centre as a facility for the homeless on a temporary basis. Victoria and B.C. Housing have shown great leadership in bringing forward these solutions,” Screech said in a statement.

These facilities will also provide a range of support services to provide the campers with access to more stable, long-term housing, including rent supplements that will be administered by Pacifica Housing.

These 88 units of transitional housing and shelter are in addition to the 147 year-round homeless shelter spaces, 125 extreme weather shelter spaces and 145 temporary shelter spaces available in Victoria.

A public information session for the community will be held on Monday, Feb. 15 in the gymnasium of Victoria Youth Custody Centre, 94 Talcott Road. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m.

Coleman said he hopes the campers take the opportunity to make meaningful changes in their lives.

Both facilities are expected to be operational by Feb. 23, 2016.

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