Save-on-Foods arena to reopen as shelter for people without homes in March

Arena to house homeless

The Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre will reopen in March as a temporary housing site with wrap-around supports for up to 45 people without homes.

Attorney General David Eby announced the move Wednesday as part of an ongoing effort by the province and City of Victoria to move people indoors by March 31 and end around-the-clock camping in city parks.

PHS Community Services Society will run the temporary shelter as it did from May to the end of September last year.

People living outdoors will be giving priority access to beds along with meals, washrooms, health care services, addictions treatment and harm-reduction supports.

The lease runs from Feb. 1 to May 30, with options to extend it beyond the deadline.

“Today’s announcement is an important step that brings us a step closer to our goal that people experiencing homelessness in Victoria’s encampments will be offered safe, dignified and comfortable emergency accommodation by the end of March,” Eby said in a news release.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps praised Eby’s leadership and hailed the reopening of the arena as an important first step in moving about 200 people indoors over the next two months.

“My understanding is that the province has a couple of other things that they’re working on,” she said in an interview. “Minister Eby has said repeatedly: ‘We’re going to meet that deadline and we’re not going to leave anyone behind.’ And I believe him.”

The government said people living in the camps — particularly those vulnerable to COVID-19 — will get priority access to shelter spaces in the arena. Indigenous people, people over the age of 55 and those with pre-existing health conditions will be those given the first beds.

At the same time, Eby, who is also the minister responsible for housing, added that city and province will continue working to move people from the arena into long-term housing.

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