Few remain, but the last residents of Victoria’s Tiny Town will soon be on the move.
The license expires for the site on Caledonia Avenue at the end of September, and operators of the shipping container facility are hailing it a success.
“I think it’s a big success,” says Our Place Society director of communications Grant McKenzie. “It’s kinda sad to see it shutting down.”
The facility has been operating since May of 2021 and has capacity for 40 residents. The shipping container units are owned by the Alliance to End Homelessness in the Capital Region and are managed by Our Place.
“I’ve seen people able to return to work now that they can shower, get a good sleep and nutritious meals,” says McKenzie of Tiny Town’s potential to positively affect the lives of its residents.
In May, the facility had its license extended for the second time.
“Unfortunately, the law only allows us to extend it twice,” says Victoria City councillor Dave Thompson.
According to McKenzie, the original concept of the shipping container community was to have it move around to different municipalities after the units were refurbished.
“They’re ready to go, and if another municipality is interested it wouldn’t take much capital to get this ready,” he says.
The walls of the gated, steel structure are adorned with murals. Victoria resident and business owner Natalie Grunberg-Ferreira cycles along the Vancouver Street side of the facility every day.
“It’s beautiful, it’s proactive, and it’s creative,” she says.
Some residents in that area have complained of property crime and break-ins since Tiny Town’s inception. The Victoria Harbourcats play adjacent to the complex, and managing partner Jim Swanson says he had fewer problems than he expected.
“It’s a band-aid, but a good band-aid. But in the long term, if somebody’s looking for dignity in housing, it’s not going to come from a unit like this,” he says.
Thompson says there are conversations happening about a future location for Tiny Town.
“We haven’t decided on anything yet,” he says.
As for 24/7 staffing of any new location, McKenzie says Our Place is ready and willing to manage it.
“The amazing thing is, after about four months, we actually had to retake the photographs of people because physically they’ve changed so much. They’re getting regular healthy meals, they’re getting a good night’s sleep. They’re not sleeping with one eye open to keep their stuff from being taken. You actually see a physical transformation of people,” says McKenzie.