Micro-housing for homeless in Victoria to be decided on Thursday

The housing-first strategy would provide garden shed-sized houses for up to 50 people CBC News,  Jun 03, 2015 -

City councilors in Victoria, B.C., will vote Thursday on whether to build a village of up to 50 micro-houses to tackle problems related to homeless people camping in city parks.

In 2009, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled homeless people had the right to camp in parks if there are no shelter beds available.

There's been no count of how many people are camping in Victoria parks, but the city has estimated policing and clean-up costs tally $600,000 a year.

In a new report city staff recommend council use some of the $1 million in the city's housing fund to help pay for a micro-housing community of garden shed-sized structures for 35 to 50 people in a city park, or leased private land.

Other recommendations include setting aside sections of some parks to support overnight tent camping with washrooms, kitchens and storage.

Councillor Geoff Young says he doesn't support either option. He expects he'll be in the minority when the report goes to council for a vote on Thursday, but he worries encampments will lead to conflicts.

In May the city hosted two public presentations by an architect and a city planner who developed similar projects in Oregon.

Medicine Hat, Alta. took a similar approach to dealing with homelessness in the city. Its strategy, referred to as "housing first," provides permanent housing for homeless people instead of temporary shelters.

According to Medicine Hat Mayor Ted Clugston, the strategy is proving so successful that the city is on target to effectively end homelessness by next year.

In September, Yellowknife city council approved a similar housing first strategy for the city.

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