Mary Street Fire
(Victoria Firefighters Local 730)

The suspect arrested for arson for a fire started in Vic West last weekend has been released from jail and evicted from a temporary-housing facility.

Emergency crews responded to a blaze on Saturday, May 15th, that engulfed a house converted into a business on Mary Street.

Fire crews were able to limit spread and damage to adjacent structures and contained the fire.

According to director of communications of Our Place Society, Grant McKenzie, the former resident has been released and evicted from the newly opened temporary housing facility in the 200-block of Russell Street.

Additionally, Our Place Society said that a resident was also evicted from the Tiny Homes Village housing project on Caledonia Avenue after they reportedly started a fire inside a unit on Monday, May 17th.

There were no injuries in both incidents.

“People who are involved in any criminal act lose their housing,” said McKenzie.

“With Russell Place, that shelter is what we call a ‘second stage’ shelter. Meaning, it’s a step up for people accessing our services. There are people in these shelters who aren’t disruptive, and who are using the services we provide.”

While the Greater Victoria area has multiple health care providers for shelters and supportive housing, the modus operandi is that once someone is evicted, they cannot access services from any number of providers in the area any longer.

“For people that get evicted, there aren’t many options for them. Shelters are, basically, low-to-the-ground social safety nets. Once you fall through that net, you don’t have anywhere to go,” said McKenzie.

“We can’t just charge and release them without understanding why they set the fires. We need to understand why — is there abuse, is there trauma? People are falling through the cracks here.”

As of May 1st, all-day camping in Victoria was prohibited, mostly affecting people experiencing homelessness in areas like Beacon Hill Park.

Those who continue to tent in parks are likely people who have either accepted shelter or have been served an injunction.

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