The Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre (SOFMC) will be reopening as a temporary shelter facility beginning in March, thanks to a new lease signed by BC Housing.
Just like the first time it opened from May to September of last year, the arena will house 45 people currently facing homelessness. Selection of those individuals will be based off of applications submitted to BC Housing and referrals made by Island Health and community partners.
Indigenous people, people experiencing long-term homelessness, people over the age of 55 and those with pre-existing health conditions will be prioritized. Those who are chosen will be supplied with wraparound support, including shelter, access to meals, washroom facilities, health-care services, addictions treatment and harm reduction.
The current lease, between BC Housing and SOFMC owner GSL group, is from Feb. 1 to May 30, but the facility won’t be opened until March to allow BC Housing time to set up. In its Jan. 27 statement, the province also noted that an extension of the lease is a possibility, pending discussions with GSL group.
The decision follows numerous calls from housing advocates and neighbourhood associations to open the arena. At the end of December, when Central Park flooded, the North Park Neighborhood Association called on BC Housing and the City of Victoria to provide the park’s displaced campers with immediate and temporary indoor housing.
Multiple tent fires in the last couple of weeks have also prompted calls for change as advocates worry that cold weather is forcing homeless individuals to take dangerous measures to stay warm.
The City of Victoria has committed to sheltering all those currently living in Victoria encampments by the end of March.
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