‘The opposite of fast’: Delayed small shelters for Vancouver’s homeless are long overdue

It was an innovative attempt to tackle Vancouver’s homelessness crisis, but as autumn temperatures approach, there are few signs that a small, twice-delayed shelter village, is about to open.

Vancouver’s previous city council approved the pilot project for tiny shelters in February 2022, allocating $1.5 million to the initiative over two years.

Each 100 square foot unit is supposed to be equipped with heating and air conditioning, electricity, space for two people and a lock on the door.

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The opening of the village was originally scheduled to open last fall, but was postponed to spring 2023 and then delayed again, with only six of the planned ten units ready for occupancy.

“Knowing that these systems exist and knowing that they are starting to be rolled out in other municipalities in British Columbia, it frustrates me a little to see people still living on the streets in our city,” the councilman said. of Vancouver. Pete Fry, who voted for the pilot, told PKBNEWS.

“It’s the opposite of fast. We want to see a quick fix to an immediate problem while we wait to build those long-term plans, including permanent housing.

The 875 Terminal Ave. project, when complete, will be managed by the Lu’Ma Native Housing Society, which also operates a nearby shelter.

BC Housing has directed questions about the project to the City of Vancouver.

In a statement, the city said the project is facing delays due to “additions to the scope of work, site condition challenges to overcome, and the hybrid modular and on-site construction model that have required increased coordination to operationalize the Tiny Shelter structures. »

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The initial construction schedule for the units, the statement said, had been estimated based on studies of other small shelters, which were later found to be insufficient to meet city safety standards for electrical and electrical work. fire alarm, for example.

The units also required additional work for placement and moisture protection on the uneven concrete, while construction hours were limited so as not to disturb the impacts of the nearby shelter, said the city.

Homeless advocate Guy Felicella called the delays in getting the facility up and running “unbelievable”.

“I think the tiny house is great in that it’s air conditioned and heated, it has a door that locks so there’s security, there’s security there. You can create a sense of community there that can support people,” he said.

“Yet the delay is many years, and it becomes devastating for people who are homeless on the streets – homelessness is really a condition of mental and physical punishment, and it is solved by building houses, so the city ​​just needs to cut red tape. build these things.

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Fry said that while the pilot project was a city initiative, responsibility for housing still rests with the provincial government.

He said deeper partnerships with provincial and federal governments could help break down barriers to paperwork and funding for similar projects.

The results, he said, could be life changing.

“The key to this kind of approach is that it’s about getting people to come in, literally inside with a lockable door, and then they’re able to stabilize, they can get whatever they want. need,” he said. said.

“Maybe health care, maybe an ID card, maybe a job, maybe get on a permanent housing list – those are all opportunities you really struggle with when you live in a tent.”

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The City of Vancouver says it hopes the pilot village will be active by this fall.

&copy 2023 PKBNEWS, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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