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Comment: Temporary housing has caused problems for neighbours

When we are housing people, many with great challenges, neighbourhoods surrounding these facilities need to know they will be protected.
Tiny Town in Victoria in March 2022. The temporary housing site was built with shipping containers. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

A commentary by a Victoria resident.

Yet again, the residents surrounding Victoria’s “tiny town” are being told they must endure another month (or more, who knows) where our lives are upended.

In March, the City of Victoria was asked to extend the licence agreement to allow the sea canisters (tiny town) to remain through the summer until Sept. 30.

This was the third licence agreement and second extension. Council granted that extension with the final wording stating: “Authorize the Director of Strategic Real Estate to notify the Licensee, Our Place Society, the project funder, BC Housing, and the modular unit supplier, Alliance to End Homelessness in the Capital Region, that there will be no further license extensions beyond September 30th, 2023.”

Yet, here we are, on the very last days of this third agreement, being asked to put up with continued disruption, mayhem, criminal activities and behaviour no city councillor would ever allow in their neighbourhood.

And if they would, we encourage them to move this facility near their families, especially those with young children … then let’s see how many extensions they grant.

I live across from this temporary facility, which everyone praises as some great success. I have no doubt that it’s a success for those inside the facility, as I’m a big believer in more housing for those who need it. Full stop.

However, when we are housing people, many of them with great challenges, the neighbourhoods surrounding these facilities need to know they will also be protected. We have not.

My husband and I live right across the street from this facility and from the front of our house we look right into it.

Over the last few years, at our own expense, we have had to build fences, put up gates, put up security cameras and most recently build our fences even higher, with new fence posts to put up chicken wire around much of the yard.

We even had to put locks on our gates.

Every night, my husband puts a bicycle U-lock on our gate, to keep people from going through our yard and getting into our home.

One night, a man broke into our home in the middle of the night and we were awoken to him standing at the end of our bed shining a flashlight on us.

He was known to the police, had been in someone’s garage the night before and all the police were allowed to do was catch and release him … back to the street.

On a regular basis, since these sea canisters have been placed here, everything not tied down has been stolen and people’s cars have been broken into or damaged. Any repairs or replacements of goods are at our expense.

One of our neighbours, who loved her home and loved this neighbourhood, moved. She’s a senior, yet was never afraid of typical city living. However, her grown children convinced her to move as it was too dangerous, so she left what she called “my forever home.”

We have had “security” at this facility 24 hours. However, as one of my neighbours recently said, it is worse than nothing, because it gives people the impression that this gives real security.

Take it from me and my neighbours: It does not.

I have spoken to these security guards many times over the years. They have told me they can do nothing except call the police. And we know how overburdened our police are, so many times, no one shows up.

We greatly appreciate Victoria police and don’t fault them one bit.

I expect when this extension request comes before council this week, they will grant it and say something like, “This is the last time! We mean it!”

I expect, just like the last time, they won’t consult us. Or they’ll find someone who says, “this is glorious” while putting on earmuffs to the voices of the rest of us.

I have heard that if this extension isn’t granted, these people will be homeless. That’s funny, because there’s a brand-new building, just a few blocks away, that is ready for occupancy this very moment.

Yet for some bizarre reason, the very people from tiny town, who have been assigned to move into this taxpayer-funded building, are not being moved and instead are stuck in these sea canisters for another month … or however long it takes.

Seems to me, the only ones creating the homelessness are the B.C. government and B.C. Housing. Rather ironic, don’t you think?

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