Chamber Supports Ellice Street Shelter and Housing
Chamber News – June 4, 2008 – The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce is concerned that there is significant risk to the proposal to build a shelter and supportive housing facility on Ellice Street. The funding to build and operate the facility is already committed by the provincial government. Building the facility would also allow the downtown Streetlink location to be converted to additional supportive housing.
A move is underway from the community association to inhibit the removal of the under-utilized park from park zoning so that the land could be used to build the facility. In the end, should this proposal for building more housing for the homeless not get city approval, it will represent a significant set-back in efforts of the larger community to make positive headway on this issue. We encourage our members to let your municipal councillors know that housing the homeless, in all areas of our community, is important to the overall well-being of the entire city.
City plan for park satisfies various needs
June 10, 2008
Kathy Stinson, Executive Director
Victoria Cool Aid Society
If you want a safe and secure park for the residents of Burnside-Gorge, and if you want to alleviate the issues of homelessness in the area with a shelter that the larger community desperately needs, then think twice before signing a petition to “save this park.”
A petition drive is underway, opposing a bylaw that would allow Victoria city council to remove a 40-year old playlot in a light industrial area from its reserve. The Ellice Street Reservation Removal Bylaw will allow council to consider the lease of this land to the Victoria Cool Aid Society, if our application to build a shelter and housing development on the property is approved.
The concern over the preservation of the park seems more emotional than practical. The site is located in an industrial area, not in a residential neighbourhood. It is a playlot having industrial and commercial uses surrounding it. The closest residential neighbourhood is across Gorge Road – a busy arterial road. Although the city has increased its cleaning and services at the playlot, it is under-utilized by families and is a magnet for illegal activity.
Council has ensured that there will be no net loss of park space if the playlot is removed. A new park, equal or greater in size, than what currently exists, would be established in the neighbourhood closer to children and families.
The size of the Ellice Street property permits flexibility in site planning to accommodate all the resources and spaces needed to achieve a well-functioning shelter and transitional housing development. Since our proposal was announced earlier this year, the society has engaged in constructive consultation and communication with neighbours and has responded to their concerns through design enhancements.
We also learned that many of the neighbours’ fears stemmed from existing neighbourhood issues relating to safety and security. We believe Cool Aid’s presence in the area will help to mitigate these issues. In addition, the Victoria police have committed to have an office in the building and an increased presence.
Cool Aid has successfully entered into Good Neighbour Agreements in other neighbourhoods, most recently with North Park for our Next Steps Shelter, and is fully committed to working with Ellice Street neighbours and the Burnside-Gorge Community Association to arrive at such an agreement for this new resource.
Cool Aid’s Streetlink shelter serves twice the number of clients as it was originally designed for and is no longer adequate to provide the services needed to assist people to move from homelessness to permanent housing.
Overall, our proposed, purpose-built, best-practice shelter and transitional housing facility will offer improved services for people to regain independence than can be offered at the existing, cramped Streetlink shelter.