City of Vancouver outlines $1.5 million "tiny shelter" village in False Creek Flats

Feb 3 2022, 2:00 am

The establishment of a “tiny shelter” village to provide more urgent shelter capacity for Vancouver’s homeless will be accomplished by expanding an existing indoor shelter just north of Home Depot in the False Creek Flats.

Staff with the City of Vancouver are seeking city council’s final approval next week to build the pilot project of a temporary tiny shelter village on the surface parking lot of 875 Terminal Avenue, which is a city-owned warehouse building currently used as the Klahowya Tillicum Lalum homeless shelter.

The building, previously a maintenance facility for the Vancouver Trolley Company, is one of the two 60-bed indoor shelters that opened in Spring 2021.

875 Terminal Avenue vancouver klahowya tillicum lalum homeless shelter

Site of the tiny village shelter for the homeless at the parking lot next to the Klahowya Tillicum Lalum shelter at 875 Terminal Avenue, Vancouver. (City of Vancouver)

875 Terminal Avenue vancouver klahowya tillicum lalum homeless shelter

Site of the tiny village shelter for the homeless at the parking lot next to the Klahowya Tillicum Lalum shelter at 875 Terminal Avenue, Vancouver. (City of Vancouver)

A “tiny shelter” village building of up to 10 tiny structures could increase the shelter location’s overall capacity by up to 20 people, with each structure providing one open room for one or two people to sleep, store belongings, and possibly an area to sit. The structures will also be equipped with heating, air conditioning, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, keypad doors with override codes, and an emergency door. The interior living surfaces will be made of non-combustible materials, and a kitchen will not be provided.

All washroom, shower, and laundry facilities for the village will be provided in the main shelter building, along with meals, programs, common areas, and 24/7 staff support. The village will be managed by Lu’ma Native Housing Society.

“By co-locating the Tiny Shelter Pilot on this site, economies of scale are achieved as the overall cost of management and provision of support services make this project more affordable than if piloted at a stand-alone site,” reads a city staff report.

“Staff are recommending the pilot start with this small number of structures in order to minimize additional pressure on the existing shelter, while still adding needed capacity.”

los angeles westlake tiny homes

Westlake tiny homes village in Los Angeles. (Lehrer Architects)

Chandler Boulevard Bridge Home Village Los Angeles

Chandler Boulevard Bridge Home Village of tiny shelters in Los Angeles, built in 2021. (Lehrer Architects)

The project is expected to carry a total acquisition, installation, and operational cost of $1.5 million, based on the two-year duration of the pilot project upon completion. This includes $460,000 for acquiring and installing 10 tiny shelters — $46,000 per shelter — and an operating and support cost of $510,000 annually.

City staff intend to use up to $1.5 million from the municipality’s Empty Homes Tax revenues to fund the full costs.

If approved, city staff will initiate a procurement process for a shelter supplier and contractor between February and April, complete the development permit application process throughout the spring, construct the village throughout the summer, and have occupancy ready by September 2022.

The cost of evaluating the effectiveness and performance of the shelters is $20,000, which will determine whether the program is expanded beyond September 2024.

The shelter is located just west of the temporary modular housing complex for the homeless at 1580-1582 Vernon Drive, which is another city-owned property. This complex of 98 supportive housing units reached completion in September 2021.

Alexandria Park Tiny Homes Village Los Angeles

Alexandria Park Tiny Homes Village in Los Angeles. (Lehrer Architects)

This project was initiated by city council in October 2020 — during the peak of the Strathcona encampment crisis — when it approved a motion by Mayor Kennedy Stewart directing city staff to study the feasibility of tiny homes.

City staff consulted with experts in building tiny homes and tiny shelters last year, including tiny shelter operators and builders in Victoria and San Francisco.

Tiny shelters for the homeless that are currently being experimented with in other jurisdictions in North America are generally approximately 100 sq ft or less.

In early 2021, the City of Los Angeles built its first temporary tiny shelter village of 40 units with a combined total of 75 beds in North Hollywood as a pilot project to help address its rising homeless count exacerbated by the pandemic. It carried a cost of US$3.5 million. Three other villages with a similar or higher capacity have since been built in the city.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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