During the mid-afternoon, tents dot the sidewalk of the 900-block of Pandora. The number of people congregating outside Our Place is growing.
There is often 70 people sleeping overnight on the boulevard. But another daily challenge, according to the Downtown Victoria Business Association’s executive director Jeff Bray, is the daily gathering outside the Safe Consumption Site next door.
“What we’re seeing with some of the new services in the 900 block of Pandora is an additional clientele that is coming here, often utilizing illicit substances and the after-effects of consumption. then congregating in a fairly confined area is having an impact on the neighbourhood,” Bray said.
It’s a problem frustrating Victoria council as well. The council is calling on other levels of government for funding for more supportive housing. Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe admits the current situation is frustrating.
“We need more housing. And both affordable and supportive. And we need more supports whether it’s detox, treatment, for people with mental health and addictions,” Thorton-Joe said.
Our Place Society’s Grant McKenzie opened a door in the building’s basement on Tuesday to show a stack of mats ready to go.
“So these are new mats. We’re opening up not just a winter service. But it’s going to be every night for people throughout the winter so everyone knows they have a place to sleep,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie said that on Oct. 1, 35 new shelter beds will be available, meaning fewer people sleeping outside in tents.
“Having an extra 35 beds will get an extra 35 people inside. And give them the stability of knowing they have a place to sleep that night. It’s not going to take care of everybody,” McKenzie said.
A bit of sunshine in a difficult environment. Billy Penny is a regular client at Our Place. But as the victim of a violent robbery several years ago, his health hasn’t recovered. But his life is about to change, trading his old walker for a new scooter.
“I couldn’t believe that it was happening. And here it is,” Penny said. “It’s unexpected. And I’m so happy for that. I’m just elated beyond words sometimes.”
The new scooter is a donation by City Wide Scooters. Art Bamford goes over the instructions with Penny to ensure the transition is smooth. This is the fourth scooter donated by the company.
“I always get something out of it when I come down here. Yes, it is. It’s heart-warming,” Bamford said.