Neighbours calling for Save-On-Foods arena to house homeless again

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Neighbours are calling on the province to turn the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre back into a temporary emergency shelter as it sits empty.

The North Park Neighbourhood Association is calling on the province to turn the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre back into a temporary emergency shelter.

Over the summer, the province – along with local groups like the Portland Hotel Society – supported around 50 people in the arena.

The group has been calling for the move since September, when the facility started winding down. With the WHL put on hold again due to the pandemic, the facility is sitting empty.

“They will get paid for a building that is sitting empty, we will serve our most marginalized, and we will help a neighbourhood that has just really been burdened,” said Allison Ashcroft of the Association.

Central park just next door has been filled with campers for months.

Some residents in the area say they don’t feel safe and that the encampment does not have proper supports or services, while suggesting that the arena could provide relief.

READ MORE: Victoria’s Save-On-Foods Memorial to become emergency response centre amid COVID-19

Ashcroft says she and others also feel the facility, along with places like Royal Athletic Park, are not being used to support the public and the crisis.

“When there were 50 people in this building there were no complaints, there was no disruption to the nearby neighbours,” she said.

“According to some of the service providers, it was a really good setup for those living inside.”

The Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness says the model was a big success.

“It was extremely successful from the standpoint of the folks who were able to move out of the encampments, and into an indoor location with food, showers and great supports on-site,” said Kelly Roth, Executive Director.

B.C. Housing says everyone who sheltered in the arena the first go around has found permanent housing. Now they say the infrastructure for the shelter has been removed.

The housing organization also says they cannot confirm any future plans at this time regarding the arena.

Building operator GSL Group who initially offered up the building did not respond to a request for comment.

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