Moving into a long-term home after being homeless is somewhat of a shock to the system, and Our Place is lending a hand by asking organizations to sponsor tenant starter kits.
“We can’t have people walking into an empty house, we have to make them feel comfortable, safe and ready to take that next step,” said Steven Seltzer, corporate giving manager with Our Place.
In partnership with the Victoria Cool Aid Society, Our Place is asking congregations and faith groups to consider compiling the contents of one kit.
“It’s almost like a treasure hunt for different rooms. For bedrooms there’s everything from small throw rugs to actual beds,” Seltzer said.
Other items include hygiene products. cleaning supplies, pots, pans, plates and cutlery. Once the kit is ready, Our Place will coordinate with someone about to transition into long-term housing and ship the supplies directly there.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on people experiencing homelessness as conditions in shelters and tent cities come under scrutiny. The government insists camping in parks or on streets cannot continue, so they’ve accelerated developing more housing options, Seltzer said.
Last year the point-in-time homelessness count reported there were 620 people sleeping on the street or in emergency shelters, and another 903 staying in temporary places like couch surfing or in transition homes — 1,523 in total.
A lot has changed since last year as space was made in hotels and other short-term options to help alleviate the need for tent cities, such as in Beacon Hill Park. Our Place said they’re hearing there are still around 200 people sleeping outside in Victoria parks.
Right now Our Place is helping about five people moving into long-term homes, and expect another 40-50 within the year as more government projects move ahead.
Helping people transition from insecure or no housing to having a stable, long-term home takes more than just the apartment.
“Their mindset, so many of them, is just to survive. They’re not thinking of planning meals ahead, to use a fridge properly,” Seltzer said.
It helps if people can start in a shelter where they work on meals together, and then transition to a hotel where they get to manage their own space. Eventually when a long-term home is available to them, Our Place hopes they’ve been able to get a sense of safety and security and are able to live on their own.
That’s where the tenant starter kits come in. Since putting the call out, Our Place has received a handful of inquiries from organizations wanting to help.
Individuals who want to contribute are asked to consider cash donations to support other essential functions like the three daily meals, paramedic outreach and showers for anyone who needs it.