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Tiny Town container-housing village set to reopen at Royal Athletic Park parking lot

New residents are expected to start moving into the 30-unit shipping-container village in March, just months after it closed

A 30-unit shipping-container ­village dubbed Tiny Town is set to reopen on the parking lot next to Royal Athletic Park, just months after shutting down.

Reopening the temporary housing facility is part of a memorandum of ­understanding announced Friday between the province and City of ­Victoria to co-ordinate rapid ­support for people ­experiencing ­homelessness. According to Housing ­Ministry staff, the project — now called Caledonia Place — will run until at least September 2025.

Our Place Society, which will operate the site on city land, said it will need a few weeks to ­prepare the units for occupancy, but clients are expected to move in before the end of March.

Tiny Town was established in 2021 as a temporary home for B.C. Housing clients while more permanent units were being built. The village, at 940 Caledonia Ave., was built with shipping ­containers with funding from local donors and businesses and partnerships with B.C. Housing and the City of Victoria, and operated by Our Place Society.

The units are about 100 square feet with communal showers and washrooms. The pilot project was supposed to house people for only a few months, but ended up running for almost 2½ years.

After the last residents moved to permanent housing, Tiny Town shut down in the fall and the Alliance to End Homelessness in the Capital Region sold the units to B.C. Housing for $300,000. Some neighbourhood residents complained about increased crime, vandalism and trespassing in the area after the container village opened.

Area resident Sean Kahil, who sits on the board of the North Park Neighbourhood ­Association, was not happy to hear that it’s reopening.

“This particular facility was supposed to be gone several times, and they kept extending it. They say ‘it’s over’ and then they go and [extend it again], so in terms of the validity of their word, they’ve got zero ­credibility,” he said. “There are also lots of promises made about security and stuff like that and that never happened.”

On Friday, Victoria Coun. ­Stephen Hammond — who has said the province needs to provide funding for increased security and protection around supportive-housing projects — called the decision to reopen Tiny Town “heartless.”

“For some reason, these ­reckless decisions are made with no regard to the safety, security and well-being of the people who have to live with the ­consequences.”

Kahil said the neighbourhood has little choice but to brace for increased criminality. It’s also facing a lot of new development, including a 39-unit supportive housing project in the 1000-block of North Park Street and 50 more supportive units inside a 220-unit non-market rental ­building in the 900-block of Pandora Avenue. “The number of new units that are going up in our neighbourhood is just exploding,” Kahil said, adding support services and security can’t keep up with demand.

He said the neighbourhood has been willing to take on some of the supportive-housing units, but it seems like all of it is being concentrated in one place.

“We’ve gone above and beyond — we’ve been good as a partner and as sympathetic as we possibly could be,” he said. “We are willing to be partners, but we’re just dictated to and given nothing.”

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon also announced Friday that a 30-bed, extreme-weather shelter operated by SOLID Outreach Society at St. John the Divine Church on Quadra Street will have funding to operate every night through the winter season. “We all know that encampments are not a safe place for people to live,” Kahlon said. “This partnership will result in better homelessness response actions, so people can have access to appropriate ­supports and services quickly.”

Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto said the new agreement with the province underscores the city’s commitment to human-centred solutions for people ­experiencing homelessness.

In a statement, Victoria Police Chief Del Manak said “small, well-managed sites, like the ­former Tiny Town, can be safe for both those needing ­support and the neighbourhoods around them when they are ­appropriately located.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com