Water bottle refill stations, 24-hour public restrooms and new “collaborative spaces” could be coming to the 900-block of Pandora Avenue.
The stretch of busy street is home to one of only a few of the city’s green spaces, but is better known for hosting a large population of Victorians experiencing homelessness.
The block is home to COHO co-operative housing and Our Place Society, one of the largest non-profits serving vulnerable community members in the region. Services range from food and shelter to places of worship, education and health and employment resources.
The 900-block is also home to the Harbour Supervised Consumption Service – a safe injection site and harm reduction hub which includes Island Health’s Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams and related clinical services.
At the end of November, Victoria city council approved a request from the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness (GVCEH) asking staff to consider three initiatives for the 900-block during the 2020 budget process: Water bottle refill stations, 24-accessible washrooms and collaborative space making (things like sit-down areas or chairs).
Kelly Roth, executive director of GVCEH, says the suggestions come from consultation with community members, city staff, business owners, residents of Our Place Society and people who live – literally – on the block.
“There’s not really a lot of public access washrooms,” Roth says. “Everybody in the community talked about [washrooms] being an important issue.”
The only 24/7 public toilets in the city are the washrooms at Centennial Square and the award-winning Langley Street Loo, known for winning the obscure prize of Canada’s best restroom in 2012.
The 900-block of Pandora Avenue initiatives are for everyone, Roth emphasizes. She says GVCEH supports welcoming community spaces that encourage connections.
“Homelessness is a social issue, it is not an identity,” she says. “It really is a community and a societal responsibility if we’re going to fix it.”
Victoria Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe says council recognizes the need for more restrooms.
“We recognize that the right to washrooms is important,” she says. “Many of us can afford to go into Starbucks, buy a coffee and go into the washroom…but many don’t have that ability.”
Thornton-Joe says city council has to consider things like location, costs of installation and the potential need for supervision – whether that’s security or community-led.
GVCEH’s recommendations for Pandora Avenue will be considered by staff for the City of Victoria’s 2020 budget.
Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.