More than 150 people who were living at Discontent City are now in housing.
Residents from the now-closed tent city in downtown Nanaimo had begun moving into two temporary supportive housing projects, located at 250 Terminal Ave. and 2020 Labieux Rd., by the end of last month.
Now, 155 people from Discontent City are living in temporary housing, said Dominic Flanagan, executive director for B.C. Housing, at a press conference Monday morning.
“The good news is that over the last two weeks, 155 people who were formerly residing at tent city on Port Drive are now inside at both sites. So people who were formerly homeless now have somewhere to live,” Flanagan said during a press conference which also included officials from Pacifica Housing and Island Crisis Care Society.
Flanagan didn’t specifically say whether everyone living at Discontent City would be placed in temporary supportive housing, or how many people were denied. He said B.C. Housing is still reviewing data and believe there are some people from Discontent City who are elsewhere in the community.
“We’re still going through the numbers and we believe there may be a handful of people who … may be couch surfing or in hospital,” he said. “So we got a number of people following up still and being engaged and getting connected to either a shelter or housing.”
According to Flanagan, there will be 167 people housed in total. He said B.C. Housing had expected the number to be higher, but had to sacrifice some units for common area space and other amenities. He said there are still some units available at both sites.
The majority of the construction work at both sites has been completed according to Flanagan, who said the remaining work will be finished by the end of the week. He said the main priority was to get people into housing.
“We were really focused on making sure the move went as safe as possible for a very vulnerable population. So, we took our time and we worked with people,” he said.
Flanagan said while B.C. Housing had to address the urgent need of the people living at Discontent City, there is a recognition that much more work needs to be done in Nanaimo. He said there are community outreach workers who will be contacting homeless individuals in the city’s downtown area in an effort to get them into shelter.
Angela McNulty-Buell, director of support services for Pacifica Housing, the organization responsible for operating the Labieux Road site, said people are happy to have a place they can call home.
“Folks are just happy. On the first day of moving in last Friday, there was a young man who as soon as he came in, called his mom and started crying,” she said, later adding “That’s been the ongoing narrative.”
Violet Hayes, executive director with Island Crisis Care Society, the organization in charge of running the Terminal Avenue site, said the first residents moved into the site on Thursday and Friday.
“Thursday and Friday were very busy days as residents moved. Hectic, but very rewarding to see the faces of the people,” she said.
Hayes said the Terminal site will provide similar services as the Labieux site. She said her site has a women’s only building and that residents were carefully selected to ensure there was a good mix at both sites.
“We’ve really worked to try and ensure that is the best fit for the situation,” she said.
Hayes also said that since residents began moving into the site, she hasn’t heard any complaints from nearby businesses along Terminal Avenue. She said if nearby businesses are concerned, her organization is very happy to work with them and discuss their concerns.