A vacant lot on Blanshard Street in Victoria was supposed to become home to 21 homeless Indigenous women next month, but construction on the modular housing project hasn’t even started.

B.C. Housing says the initial procurement process took longer than expected because the original contractor was unable to deliver the project on budget. That resulted in delays as B.C. Housing had to find another contractor.

They have since signed a contract with a Vancouver Island-based provider, Muchalat, that is currently completing another modular project up-island. They won’t be able to finish construction on the Victoria project until the end of this year with women moving in January 2020.

“Aboriginal women are particularly vulnerable so this housing was meant to go up as soon as possible to get Aboriginal women housed so it is a bit disappointing to see the delay,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

The idea behind the province’s Rapid Response to Homelessness is that modular housing projects can go up quickly — construction takes four to five months — getting people off the street faster.

But the timeline for the Victoria project will be closer to two years since it was first announced.

Our Place Aboriginal housing support worker Sylvia Parke says she gets calls every day from people desperate for a place to live.

“It’s heartbreaking to have to tell them there’s going to be one more year of the struggle to maintain life and to live and also be able to get all your basic needs met without housing which is difficult,” said Parke.

But those who will help run the supportive housing at the Blanshard site, say it’s an important project that will be worth the wait.

“So it is a setback but honestly I’m just very encouraged that this is happening,” said Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness Executive Director Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi.

Hunt-Jinnouchi says her group is already working with some of the women who will eventually move into the modular housing.

“We are meeting with them four times a month, we have cooking classes, life skill classes, self-empowerment workshops,” she said.

They’ve already been able to help two of the women find other housing. The hope now is that 21 others will be able to call the Blanshard site home by January 2020.

April Lawrence