Tiny Town supportive housing to reopen on Caledonia Avenue


Four months after Tiny Town initially closed, the province has now announced its plans to reopen the supportive housing units at the same location.

Tiny Town previously provided homes for formerly unhoused people on Caledonia Avenue. The units were repurposed shipping containers, and the last of the residents moved out when the supportive housing at 1075 Meares St. opened in October 2023.

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Days later, BC Housing purchased the units but did not release plans of how they would be used in future.

On Friday, the province announced it would be reopening the units at their previous location with funding from the Homeless Encampment Action Response Temporary Housing (HEARTH) program. Some $400,000 was spent in purchasing the structures and another $1.4 million will be provided through the HEARTH program to operate the site.

The 30 units will be open until September 2025, and will be operated by Our Place Society, which had operated the complex before it closed. The province estimates it will take about two weeks before people can start to move in.

“We are glad to be able to provide more shelter and housing to people who desperately need it and we will be managing it with a similar approach as done before,” Leah Young, director of housing and shelter of Our Place Society, said. “The small, supported-housing site worked well and its strength was building a community for all involved.”

Some support the project, others oppose it

Niki Ottonsen, operator of The Backpack Project, says reopening Tiny Town fills a desperate need.

“It means 30 people will get off the streets and get into safe, lockable units,” said Ottonsen.

While it’s not a permanent solution, Ottosen says any help to get vulnerable people off the street is a welcomed changed.

“If that’s all we have to offer people, there should be one in every community to ensure that nobody ends up out of their community on the street, and up on Pandora looking for services,” said Ottonsen.

Del Manak, Victoria’s police chief says housing projects like this are helpful for vulnerable people.

“We know that small, well-managed sites, like the former Tiny Town, can be safe for both those needing support and the neighbourhoods around them when they are appropriately located,” said Manak. “We support this approach to finding solutions for our most vulnerable populations and look forward to continuing our work toward a safer community together.”

However, Victoria Coun. Stephen Hammond says this decision to reopen Tiny Town is an act of betrayal for the neighbourhood.

“BC Housing and the Minster of Housing has deceived the people around here,” Hammond said.

The councillor says he’s heard a number of stories from nearby residents of disruptions, break-ins, and broken property since Tiny Town began operating in 2021. While Hammond says supportive housing projects provide a need, the pleas from neighbours for better security and safety have gone unheard.

“Give us the kind of protection that makes their lives enjoyable as opposed to miserable. I don’t think we’re asking too much. When the government brought in their budget yesterday and we have expenditures of about $108 billion dollars, or thereabouts, I think they can probably spend about a few thousands on a little more security,” he said.

Previous temporary arrangement

Victoria council had previously approved a licence for Tiny Town to operate, however, on March 9, 2023, it passed a motion saying the city would not extend the licence beyond Sept. 30, 2023.

Jodi Sigsworth lives near the complex and says when Tiny Town was previously operating she had installed fences and gates around her property due to safety issues.

“It’s extremely, extremely upsetting to me,” she said. “I have so many stories I can tell about how it’s disturbed our neighbourhood. The very worst is having had a man break into my house and standing at the end of my bed in the middle of the night with a flashlight on me.”

North Park Neighbourhood Association board member Sean Kahil says Tiny Town “should be gone.”

“We were given assurances last time about all sorts of security things that would happen and none of them did. There was never any response. People were camping outside again it was just inside the building that was the only thing that they take responsibility for,” said Kahil.

The Ministry of Housing says they’re not aware of any criminal activities at the site.

“We are not aware of any criminal activity that has been directly connected with the former residents of Tiny Town at 940 Caledonia Avenue,” said the ministry in an emailed statement.

They add that the community will provide residents with support services and staff will be on site 24/7.

“Caledonia Place will have a minimum of three staff on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure that residents are supported and that any concerns are addressed in a timely manner. The site is fenced with a secure front gate and also has closed circuit security cameras around the site (interior and exterior). Our Place staff will also do exterior rounds around the site.”

The ministry also says nearby residents are encouraged to call the site directly if they have any concerns.

In addition to reopening Tiny Town, the province announced it was providing funding for a 30-bed temporary winter shelter at the St. John the Divine Church operated by SOLID Outreach Society.

The church currently functions as an extreme weather shelter and only opens in the event of weather events. With this funding, it will operate through the winter.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham
Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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