Located across the street from Royal Athletic Park, a temporary housing development has been serving Victoria’s houseless population for the past two years, but now the complex is being closed for good.
‘Tiny Town’ was owned by the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, built locally by Aryze Developments and operated by social workers and staff from Our Place Society.
It was built in early 2021 as a way to provide housing for vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic and was only ever supposed to be a short-term solution.
“The initial idea was to show how successful this could be,” said Grant McKenzie, Director of Communications at Our Place Society.
“Then once everyone who was living in it was transitioned to permanent housing, which is what’s happened, it would move to another community or municipality.”
It was given two extensions to remain open in its initial location because there simply weren’t enough permanent housing units to transition the 40 Tiny Town community members to at the time of the site’s permit expiration.
Despite some anticipated pushback from the neighborhood residents, by the end of the Tiny Town project, most people in the area have seen little impact to their property values and crime in the area.
McKenzie says that while there was still some crime and mischief in the area, usually it was due to external factors.
“I can’t really think of any police incidents,” he told Victoria Buzz. “When the people moved in there, they really took ownership of it.”
“There would have been police incidents around the neighbourhood that people wrongly connected to Tiny Town, it wasn’t the residents of Tiny Town — it was the people who were not housed.”
“It was a very peaceful environment,” McKenzie added.
Although the atmosphere was a peaceful one and the residents of Tiny Town had access to workers who were actively helping them, harm reduction supplies and a safe consumption site within the development, there was one overdose that occurred in Tiny Town.
“There was someone who did overdose and die within ne of the units,” McKenzie explained. “I think that’s probably true of every supportive site, which is the heartbreaking part of our job.”
“There’s only so much you can do; you can offer supervised consumption sites but if people don’t use it that’s their choice.”
Overall, the program was a success and McKenzie explained that he was surprised it hadn’t been picked up by any other municipalities following its widespread media coverage upon opening.
Our Place Society had hoped it could be refurbished and brought into another community who needed a transitional housing solution while waiting for more permanent housing initiatives to be completed.
Now, the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness is considering selling off Tiny Town as it is not being used anymore.
While the Victoria city council has spoken at length about the successes of Tiny Town in their debates over a solution to outlawing sheltering in parks, they have no plan in the works to establish a similar solution at this time.