The B.C. government has purchased the Comfort Inn Hotel in Victoria for the purpose of housing homeless people currently living in the Topaz Park and Pandora Ave encampments.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, the building located at 3020 Blanshard Street will provide around 65 rooms to shelter homeless people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The purchase cost the province around $18.5 million. In the long term, the building could be converted into affordable housing, if that is determined through engagement with the community.
“Everyone deserves to have safe, stable housing they can afford, and this site offers great potential to deliver a mix of permanent housing to meet the needs of people in Victoria,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“This will further add to the significant efforts underway with community and local government partners in the Capital Regional District to tackle the housing crisis and build the homes people need.”
Like the other hotels and shelters in Victoria and Vancouver provided for the purpose of housing vulnerable populations, the Comfort Inn Hotel will have staff on site to provide meals, cleaning, health care, addictions treatment and harm reduction, storage for personal belongings and other supports.
Staff will also be there to provide security, both to the residents of the hotel and to its surrounding neighbourhood.
There will also be a committee created by BC Housing hat will include representatives from the Hillside Quadra and Burnside Gorge community associations and the surrounding community to help address concerns raised by people in the neighbourhood.
The building will be operated by local non-profit Our Place Society and will start receiving its guests in the coming days after they are referred by Island Health and BC Housing.
Between April 25 and May 13, 208 people living in the Topaz Park and Pandora Ave encampments have been moved to temporary housing sites at either hotels or the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
The Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, issued an order on April 25 that required the dismantling of the Topaz Park and Pandora Ave encampments in Victoria and the Oppenheimer Park encampment in Vancouver by May 9.
While that deadline was met in Vancouver, the province had to extend it to May 20 for encampments in Victoria after the non profit service providers operating shelter sites in the city said they needed more time to “best prepare accommodations and their staff in order to be able to welcome their guests”, according to Minister Shane Simpson.