Victoria – 225 Russell Street

An illustration of a shelter building in a neighborhood.


BC Housing and Our Place Society are operating a temporary shelter with 70 beds for people experiencing homelessness in Victoria, at 225 Russell Street.

This temporary shelter provides safe, secure shelter and supports, as well as connection to permanent housing and community-based services. Staff are on-site 24 hours a day, seven days a week; this means that people staying at the shelter do not need to leave in the morning and return in the evening. Services provided include accommodation and meals, as well as connection to health and social services focused on transitioning shelter occupants to appropriate long-term housing.

Temporary Shelter

The shelter will operate for 18-months with the option to extend the permit an additional 6 months. This is an interim solution to an immediate need in the community.

Only people who are experiencing homelessness are eligible to move into the temporary shelter. Our Place, as the operator of the temporary shelter, implement an intake process that prioritizes Victoria residents.

Long-term Vision

225 Russell is part of a long-term strategy to create supportive housing in the Capital region. After 18 to 24 months operating as a temporary shelter, this building will be converted into 40-units of supportive housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. All units will have a bathroom and kitchen and provide housing with a person-centered approach that meets people where they are at to help them thrive. Many of the people who move into this new supportive housing will have been living successfully in the temporary shelters leased in Victoria. There will be staff on-site 24 hours a day to provide important supports such as life skills training, wellness checks and other health and skill development programs. Applicants will go through an assessment process to make sure there is a mix of residents with the right supports and all residents will pay rent and sign a program agreement (similar to a tenancy agreement).

Community Advisory Committee

BC Housing have set up a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) with representatives from BC Housing, Our Place, other partners, community organizations and community members. The purpose of the CAC is to provide the project team and a broad cross-section of the community with a mechanism to:

  • Build and maintain positive relationships amongst the community, the building operators and the program partners
  • Facilitate information sharing and dialogue
  • Identify and resolve any issues, opportunities and concerns related to the building

Community Engagement

We are engaging the community at various points throughout the development process. BC Housing are reaching out to neighbourhood associations, local businesses, community partners and the community. An information session was held in April 2021 where the public had an opportunity to learn more about the project and Our Place Society who operate the shelter in the short term.

The long-term plan for this site is to this space into 40-units of supportive housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. To proceed with this, BC Housing are submitting a rezoning application to the City of Victoria this summer. Ahead of this submission, BC Housing and our design partners hosted a Community Information Session on July 8, 2021. During this presentation, community members had the opportunity to view renderings, design elements, and ask questions related to the design of the building. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this session took place virtually. For privacy reasons we did not record the session, however a copy of the PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded below:

July 8, 2021: Community Information Session

We welcome questions and comments below in the Q&A or by email to: communityrelations@bchousing.org.


BC Housing and Our Place Society are operating a temporary shelter with 70 beds for people experiencing homelessness in Victoria, at 225 Russell Street.

This temporary shelter provides safe, secure shelter and supports, as well as connection to permanent housing and community-based services. Staff are on-site 24 hours a day, seven days a week; this means that people staying at the shelter do not need to leave in the morning and return in the evening. Services provided include accommodation and meals, as well as connection to health and social services focused on transitioning shelter occupants to appropriate long-term housing.

Temporary Shelter

The shelter will operate for 18-months with the option to extend the permit an additional 6 months. This is an interim solution to an immediate need in the community.

Only people who are experiencing homelessness are eligible to move into the temporary shelter. Our Place, as the operator of the temporary shelter, implement an intake process that prioritizes Victoria residents.

Long-term Vision

225 Russell is part of a long-term strategy to create supportive housing in the Capital region. After 18 to 24 months operating as a temporary shelter, this building will be converted into 40-units of supportive housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. All units will have a bathroom and kitchen and provide housing with a person-centered approach that meets people where they are at to help them thrive. Many of the people who move into this new supportive housing will have been living successfully in the temporary shelters leased in Victoria. There will be staff on-site 24 hours a day to provide important supports such as life skills training, wellness checks and other health and skill development programs. Applicants will go through an assessment process to make sure there is a mix of residents with the right supports and all residents will pay rent and sign a program agreement (similar to a tenancy agreement).

Community Advisory Committee

BC Housing have set up a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) with representatives from BC Housing, Our Place, other partners, community organizations and community members. The purpose of the CAC is to provide the project team and a broad cross-section of the community with a mechanism to:

  • Build and maintain positive relationships amongst the community, the building operators and the program partners
  • Facilitate information sharing and dialogue
  • Identify and resolve any issues, opportunities and concerns related to the building

Community Engagement

We are engaging the community at various points throughout the development process. BC Housing are reaching out to neighbourhood associations, local businesses, community partners and the community. An information session was held in April 2021 where the public had an opportunity to learn more about the project and Our Place Society who operate the shelter in the short term.

The long-term plan for this site is to this space into 40-units of supportive housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. To proceed with this, BC Housing are submitting a rezoning application to the City of Victoria this summer. Ahead of this submission, BC Housing and our design partners hosted a Community Information Session on July 8, 2021. During this presentation, community members had the opportunity to view renderings, design elements, and ask questions related to the design of the building. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this session took place virtually. For privacy reasons we did not record the session, however a copy of the PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded below:

July 8, 2021: Community Information Session

We welcome questions and comments below in the Q&A or by email to: communityrelations@bchousing.org.

Have a question or comment? Please add below.

Guidelines for constructive and respectful dialogue

  • Please ensure your question is clear, concise, relevant to the project, and respectful.
  • Review our moderation policy. Questions that do not abide by the moderation policy or guidelines for respectful dialogue may not be answered.
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  • I think it is a step in the proper direction. However, there are very serious psychological problems of the homeless that need to be addressed. You can not seriously expect anyone of the neighbourhood to believe this is going solve the problem of homelessness in the city. Homeless people flock to Victoria like birds as far a way as Quebec City to get away from the winter. If you want to tackle Gotham City; I'd suggest you give all of your support to the VicPD and fire department and allow them to have a say of this particular issue.

    Perry asked 18 days ago

    Thank you for your inquiry. We recognize that these are challenging times for everyone. There is an urgent need to house people experiencing homelessness in Victoria. Point-in-time homeless counts in 2020 found there are over 1,500 people experiencing homelessness in the city. People who experience homelessness are as varied as any other neighbour. They may be seniors, people with disabilities, people who have employment but no housing, and can include people who are working through mental health concerns and/or substance use; however, it is important to note that this is not always the case.  

    B.C. is facing many challenges with respect to housing, homelessness, and health in communities across the province. This has only been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created significant health and safety concerns for our province’s most vulnerable. A common misconception is that people experiencing homelessness are “not from here” and that supportive housing “brings problems” into the neighbourhood that did not exist before. The homelessness PiT counts show us that most people experiencing homelessness in Victoria are from Victoria.

    For more information on homelessness counts in Victoria, please visit: https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/housing-pdf/housing-planning-and-programs/crd-pit-count-2020-community-report-infographic-2020-07-31.pdf?sfvrsn=813b1dcc_2 and/or: https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/housing-pdf/housing-planning-and-programs/crd-pit-count-2020-community-report-2020-07-31.pdf?sfvrsn=8d3b1dcc_2

    The Russell Street shelter was set up as an emergency response to the homeless crisis in and the COVID-19 pandemic. Homelessness is an issue throughout the whole province, and we are working extremely hard to build supportive homes throughout the province and Capital region. BC Housing is continuing to work closely with the City of Victoria and Island Health (who are both members of the Community Advisory Committee), to address the needs of residents of the Russell Street shelter. VicPD is also an active participant in the CAC and has responded to community requests by increasing and extending patrols in this area; however, they have noted that Russell Street has not generated as many high ranking concerns and they are positive about this situation. BC Housing cannot direct the resources of VicPD of the fire department; this is up to the City. 

    225 Russell is part of a long-term strategy to create supportive housing in the Capital region. After 18 to 24 months operating as a temporary shelter, this building will be converted into 40-units of supportive housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness – a presentation was shared with the community and is available on this Let’s Talk Housing project page: https://letstalkhousingbc.ca/victoria-225-russell. All units will have a bathroom and kitchen and provide housing with a person-centered approach that meets people where they are to help them thrive. Supportive housing is for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness with varying health and personal challenges who need support to achieve and maintain housing stability. The supportive housing model is unique in that all residents in supportive housing have made a choice to live there and are able to access the services provided by non-profit housing operators, such as life-skills training, and connections to primary health care, mental health and/or harm reduction services, and employment and life-skills programming. Residents here will be selected through Coordinated Access to ensure this building best suits their needs. As part of this, BC Housing will continue to work very closely with Island Health to make sure the correct supports are in place for the new residents. 

    Supportive housing is an opportunity for people to leave the streets and shelter system for safe and stable housing, working towards improved quality of life. For more information about supportive housing, please visit: https://www.bchousing.org/housing-assistance/housing-with-support/supportive-housing    

  • I live in the co-op as well and its not low income housing. Its alternative affordable housing for families. Having said that. I do agree that homeless people need shelter; however, is there going to be strict monitoring of drugs? And will there be regulations re; visitors? The school is less than two blocks away and believe me we live in a family oriented area.

    Santiago asked 4 months ago

    BC Housing’s supportive housing buildings are operated based on the widely recognized and proven Housing First model. 

    Residents at these sites, and all other supportive housing buildings that BC Housing is affiliated with, are permitted to make their own choices in regard to lifestyle. This includes the decision to abstain or use drugs/alcohol in the privacy of their homes. If they choose to use, the operators will work with each tenant to ensure they use safely.

    Harm reduction acknowledges that many people may not be in a position to remain abstinent. The harm reduction approach meets people where they are at and provides an option to engage safely with peers, medical and social services. The overarching goal of the harm reduction approach is to prevent the negative consequences of substance use and to improve health. Harm reduction approaches and programming are seen as a best practice for engaging with individuals with substance use issues.   

    However, it is important to note that not everyone who moves into the shelter will use alcohol or drugs, nor do they all require support for substance use. They are members of the community who may be seniors, people who are employed but are unable to afford housing, or people with disabilities.

    Residents of the shelter will be able to have visitors during the day, but they will not be permitted to stay overnight.

  • So exactly how will the safe injection site work? My main concern - how will the residents obtain their drugs?

    Karen asked 6 months ago

    These sites are people's homes and will make the choice to use or not use substances in their homes. Unless their substance is prescribed, it is not provided by the health care system – clients acquire their substance on their own but can use in their homes and receive supports to reduce the risk.

    Long standing and internationally used evidence-based, client-centred approach that seeks to reduce the health and social harms associated with addiction and substance use while not requiring people to abstain. Harm reduction services may include a series of programs, services and practices. Key to the harm reduction approach is that give people a choice in how they can minimize harms through non-judgmental and non-coercive strategies in order to enhance skills and knowledge to live safer and healthier lives.

  • Hi. At the information session on April 20th, a contact sheet for local residents was mentioned. I understood it would be released on the Let's Talk website 7 to 10 days after the meeting. I can't find this information. Where can I find this? I'm interested now as I heard in the media that folks are starting to move in. Thanks.

    jorunnells asked 6 months ago

    A contact information sheet for the operator of the Russell Street property is in development and will be posted on this Let’s Talk site soon.  

  • It's so important that people are offered dignified spaces inside on the pathway to housing. I understand that a transitional shelter is the first step in this journey. There was such an opportunity to make a positive difference, importantly initiatives and projects like these need to be done well. However, early signs and pictures released of the site are confirming that this seemingly rushed transformation of a warehouse in a community not consulted is creating the conditions for this particular project not to be done thoughtful or indeed well. I want to express my disappointment in how the Russell Street shelter has been approached and implemented. I understand that BC housing can only purchase what is available, but did anyone stop to consider if perhaps such tight timelines in the first place may be problematic for many reasons? Perhaps a little more time to get this right may have been necessary. You did not and are not listening to the community. Meaningful engagement has not occurred. Concerns were raised on why a warehouse was considered an appropriate space. People are also concerned about the large number (60 people) moving in, on a quiet residential street, and the disproportionate densification in the Vic west community. Does this make the Russel Street shelter the largest in Victoria? I am also curious if people experiencing homelessness were consulted prior? Did anyone from staff come down and physically visit the location before purchasing? It feels like the site was picked off a zoning map. Does one of the largest shelters in Victoria make sense outside of the downtown core where the vast majority of supports are available? As much as I am disappointed in how this has rolled out, I also want to acknowledge what a difficult time this has been, and the tremendous amount of work involved. I am hoping that there will be positive developments in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

    Vic west resident asked 6 months ago

    Thank you for your message. We agree this situation is complex and challenging.

    There is an urgent need to house people experiencing homelessness in Victoria. Point-in-time homeless counts in 2020 found there are over 1,500 people experiencing homelessness in the city.

    We know that street homelessness isn’t working for anyone—not for those who are homeless, local businesses, or their neighbours. When vulnerable people have stable housing with supports, they can access things like health care and skills training to help rebuild their lives, supporting healthy and safe communities for everyone.

    The temporary shelter will remain open for 18 months and may be extended an additional six months, if needed.  Following its use as a temporary shelter, BC Housing will engage the community on a redevelopment proposal for 40 units of supportive housing, which will follow the municipal rezoning process. 

    Sites for supportive housing are selected based on various criteria. BC Housing looks to acquire property based on community need and where there is an urgent need for more housing. People without homes are often only able to focus on basic survival needs. The Housing First model increases the likelihood of people succeeding in stabilizing their lives—once someone moves into supportive housing, they are no longer homeless, and can focus on improving their well-being.

    Please be assured we want everyone who moves into the property at Russell Street to live with dignity. Wraparound supports will include:

    • 24/7 staffing 
    • Onsite meals 
    • Access to laundry facilities, storage space and fenced outdoor space 
    • Proper hygiene facilities (shower and bathrooms) 
    • Sleeping pods that include a bed, mattress, side table and privacy walls for ease of cleaning and to reduce the spread of COVID, as well as being a more respectful way to provide shelter space 
    • Space for other service providers, like Island Heath, MSDPR, etc. to come in and provide services 
    • Harm reduction supplies and support within the shelter.  

     
    It takes a community to tackle complex issues like homelessness. A Community Advisory Committee will be established with representatives from Island Health, the non-profit housing operator, local businesses and schools, and community members at large, to proactively address any concerns regarding operations. 

  • The people who are moving into this facility....do you have names and details of who these people are? We think they should be from Vancouver Island or at least BC ... are they?

    Elizabeth2021 asked 6 months ago

    Yes, this new housing will be for people experiencing homelessness in Victoria. These spaces are part of our commitment with the City of Victoria to find safe and secure housing with supports for approximately 220 people in Victoria experiencing living in encampments.

    The 2020 Greater Victoria Point-in-Time homeless count found that the significant majority of the 1,523 homeless individuals counted were British Columbians – 84% had lived in Greater Victoria for more than one year, and 22% have lived in the region their entire lives. Of those who have moved from another place, 60% had lived somewhere in British Columbia before coming to Victoria. 

  • I think this is a great facility to put next to low income people. I live in the co-op housing and this will provide a great opportunity to teach my kids what not to do and what happens when people use drugs. I routinely drive them by the Ellice St and Pandora facilities and show them the needles and disaster that surrounds these people. Thank you for providing a great opportunity to motivate my kids to move up the social ladder and into oak bay. :)

    Aurora asked 6 months ago

    There is an urgent need to house people experiencing homelessness in Victoria. Point-in-time homeless counts in 2020 found there are over 1,500 people experiencing homelessness in the city. 

    We know that street homelessness isn’t working for anyone—not for those who are homeless, local businesses, or their neighbours. When vulnerable people have stable housing with supports, they can access things like health care and skills training to help rebuild their lives, supporting healthy and safe communities for everyone.

  • Will dogs be allowed in the temporary shelter? Will there be spot lights on all night outside the shelter?

    Iris asked 6 months ago

    Yes dogs will be permitted in the shelter.

    With regard to lighting, BC Housing Design and Construction Standards consider safety features of the housing. This approach includes an assessment to ensure features are included such as maximizing views of parking areas, entrances, sidewalks and other public spaces, and would include security features, such as cameras, fob entry, fencing, gates and lighting.  

  • How do we ensure that the park and space nearby does not snowball into a tent-city similar to what we've seen at Beacon Hill in Victoria or Strathcona Park in Vancouver? Would love to see a mitigation plan outlined and shared with the community ahead of the shelter opening.

    ange asked 6 months ago

    People are living on the streets, in parks, in cars and precariously housed in our community. These new shelter beds would bring people inside and provide a gateway to services and housing options. Without access to shelter and housing options, people will continue to live on the street with deteriorating health and have higher impacts on our neighbourhoods and community. 

    Both staff and guests of the shelter would be committed to keeping the direct area surrounding the property maintained, just as any other responsible neighbour. 

    If garbage or needles are discovered in any neighbourhood, people are able to call the society’s designated phone number for clean-up services.

  • Who is going to monitor the parks and paths nearby. Looking at the state of Pandora and Ellice st it is a disaster outside and around that area. Several women have been harassed in the morning on the way to work. How are the pathways going to remain safe? How are you going to make women feel comfortable at night?

    Heather Smith asked 6 months ago

    People who live in shelters include young people, seniors, people with disabilities, people who have experienced trauma or poverty and people who have struggled with the high cost of housing. 

    There will be policies and supports in place with this building to foster safety of both the residents and the surrounding community. Our Place Society will be responsible for managing the building, the area around the property and providing support services to the residents and can also be contacted by neighbours should there be any issues or concerns. 

    Staff will be on site 24/7. There would be at least two staff on site overnight and typically additional staff during the day to manage the building and provide residents with services.  

    There will be security on site as well and in addition, they will be doing neighbourhood walk arounds. There will be a phone number for the building available 24/7 for any building or resident related issues. 

    This is a very challenging situation, and BC Housing is committed to building more homes with supports for those who need them. People across the province are struggling to find stable housing in their communities right now, and subsequently struggling to stabilize their lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has created greater strain as existing shelters are at capacity and our need to act to secure additional space and bring people inside is urgent. 

    We’ve been taking steps to immediately respond and secure hotels and lease temporary sites, which is only highlighting the increasingly urgent need for more permanent supportive housing solutions. Our goal is to bring people in off the street and provide safe housing so that they are no longer homeless and can work on stabilizing their lives with the support from mental and physical health professionals. 

Page last updated: 15 October 2021, 09:58