Controversial Victoria homeless shelter to reopen as demand rises


WATCH: A homeless shelter across from Central Middle School will reopen its doors later this month after receiving approval from city council. April Lawrence reports.

Carlos Koltes has been homeless for four months, sleeping on a mat in a church basement each night.

“It is strenuous on the emotional and psychological aspect, so when feeling like that, it’s very difficult to find a job and to keep a job,” Koltes said.

But Koltes just got some good news ? he will be one of 40 people moving into temporary transitional housing at 1240 Yates Street after council gave it the green light Thursday morning.

The My Place shelter first opened in January 2016 to house some of the people living in tent city on the Victoria courthouse lawn, but it was closed down this May.

Now, with the weather worsening, the city’s shelters are full.

“We’re turning away people at first met every night it averages between 20 and 30 people,” said Don Evans, executive director of Our Place Society which runs the My Place shelter.

Despite millions of dollars of investment from the province, opening hundreds of new shelter and affordable housing spaces, supply just can’t keep up with demand.

“We’re finding more people are coming into homelessness because of affordability issues,” said Victoria City Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe.

“We are making grounds but we just aren’t making grounds fast enough but with some new housing coming on stream, I think we’re going to see some improvements,” she said.

In the short-term, reopening My Place will help but it doesn’t come without controversy.

“At a meeting Wednesday night some residents voiced concerns with the last shelter.

“It wasn’t a huge success, the crime in our condominium escalated considerably,” said one woman who lives nearby.

And it does sit directly across from Central Middle School.

“When it first opened up we were really quite hesitant and concerned,” said Principal Christopher MacIntosh.

But MacIntosh says his concerns were never realized.

“It was not having any impact on our building and in fact, there was increasingly some positives coming out of it,” he said.

And he says the school is actually looking forward to having the shelter back.

There will be some changes to My Place ? there will not be any tents inside this time, and residents won’t be coming directly from the street, but from other shelters where they’ve been stabilized and are looking to move on.

Our Place Society says it has some work to do inside the building but hopes to have it open Nov. 27 and the lease will run until April 30.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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