Our Place closed last Tuesday. They are still providing meals, paramedic services, handing out blankets, tents and hygiene supplies and providing access to washrooms. But the need on the block is growing. This comes as other shelters have also had to lower their capacity due to social distancing requirements. This has left already vulnerable people even more vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
BC Housing, Island Health, the Coalition to End Homelessness and the City of Victoria have been working around the clock to develop an emergency response for the people who are most vulnerable, living outside, and unable to follow any of Provincial Medical Health Officer Dr. Henry’s orders – social distancing, wash your hands, stay at home.
To start, since Friday evening the Coalition to End Homelessness has been providing evening meal and health information in Centennial Square. Sunday, City Bylaw staff and Reverend Al from the Dandelion Society will be working to identify people’s immediate needs on the 900 block of Pandora.
The Dandelion Society, the Coalition to End Homelessness and City bylaw staff have been working over the weekend to implement Phase One of the plan as soon as possible. In Phase One (starting Sunday March 22) people will select a location to go to in a number of parks around the city where there will be food, water, and washrooms. They will be able to stay in tents in the short term. The exact details and locations are still being determined.
The Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness is playing a coordinating and communication role to ensure community members are aware of their emerging options for shelter, services, and health inquiries.
In Phase Two (which will take a little bit longer to roll out – we’re working as fast as we can) people will be assessed at these interim sites with particular attention to anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Based on need, preference, symptoms or no symptoms, and other criteria, people will move to appropriate indoor sheltering locations which will also be dispersed throughout the city.
BC Housing and Island health are working in partnership to ensure that there are spaces for self-isolation for those exhibiting symptoms. Island Health will play a role in assessing people’s health and symptoms at the assessment sites and will also identify health care staff to ensure health care professionals are available to support shelter sites.
The City of Victoria has asked that the Province use its powers under the Emergency Management Act to order that City facilities be used for the provision of services by BC Housing and Island Health. The Province has granted BC Housing the powers it requires to use City facilities for sheltering. Locations are in the process of being determined.
The Capital Regional District is leveraging existing and new emergency funding announced by the Government of Canada through the Reaching Home Program to support this important effort.