Man who died suspiciously a ‘beloved’ leader of Pandora Avenue, says outreach worker

Man who died suspiciously a 'beloved' leader of Pandora Avenue, says outreach worker
Michael "Mikey" Henning is pictured.

A day after a man died suspiciously on Pandora Avenue, the atmosphere on what’s known as ‘the block’ among the unhoused living there is tense.

Numerous campers tell CHEK News a man was shot. Police Friday offered no confirmation or update.

The victim, who died of foul play, is being identified by outreach workers as Michael “Mikey” Henning, a quiet, but prominent figure in Victoria’s unhoused community.

SEE PREVIOUS: Major crimes unit investigating death on Pandora Avenue

“I just really want him to be remembered as the whole person he was, for all that he was,” said Amy Allard, with Sea Spring Coalition who knew Mikey. “He wasn’t just another person on the sidewalk. He was a leader in the community.”

Allard says he was well respected, took care of a lot of people, and had a long history of living on the streets of Victoria, confirmed by visuals found in CHEK News archives.

“He was definitely part of the tent cities over the years,” said Allard.

Like many tenting along Pandora Avenue, Allard says Henning didn’t fit successfully into supportive housing. As a result, much of his life was spent entrenched in homelessness on the streets of Victoria.

It’s something Allard says needs to change.

“I think we need to just accept there are people supportive housing and wet shelters don’t work for, and they also can’t afford to rent normal rental apartments in Victoria,” she said.

“We all know that’s a fact, and the sooner we get organized to have little micro-communities, the better.”

But micro-communities, temporary sanctioned areas offering shelter like North Parks’ “Tiny Town,” which is now sitting empty, unused, isn’t what the city or the province is focused on.

“It is temporary in its nature, the advantage is you’re able to get that housing online quickly, but it’s not quite clear if it necessarily would meet the needs of those who have challenges,” said B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon.

Allard says it’s an obvious answer for anyone forced to live in public spaces.

“No one is saying we’d prefer micro-communities over houses. Now we’re heading into another winter and nothing’s happening,” said Allard.

Kahlon says while the province is open to alternative housing models, his ministry is focusing on installing more complex care housing, more supportive housing, and affordable housing.

“We’re trying to make up for lost time. It won’t happen overnight, but we know more needs to be done,” said Kahlon.

Meanwhile, BC Housing, which works in partnership with the private and non-profit sectors, provincial health authorities, ministries, other levels of government, and community groups to develop a range of housing options, seems to have had a change of heart.

After telling CHEK News on June 21 that it doesn’t “consider them to be a solution for long-term, purpose-built supportive housing,” a representative for BC Housing says micro-communities could actually “provide secure and safe shelter for people while we build permanent housing that meets their needs.”

“That’s why, as part of this response, a variety of options, including temporary housing, which may include tiny homes-type structures, are being considered,” said Laura McLeod, a spokesperson for BC Housing.

Allard says she’s not sure how much more consideration needs to be done considering the success of Tiny Town.

“It’s incredibly frustrating and it just shows that no one on their team has been unhoused,” said Allard, who has faced homelessness herself.

Back on Pandora Avenue, many in the street community are mourning for one of the bosses on “the block.” The circumstances surrounding his death are unknown but unnerving to those who knew him best.

“He was really well respected, took care of a lot of people, really beloved,” said Allard.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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