B.C.’s housing minister is telling homeowners in Victoria that there is “work to do together” as residents of a homeless camp near City Hall were evicted but told to go to parks.
Bylaw officers helped campers pack up their belongings at Centennial Square on Tuesday, after the city moved to evict them in an emergency meeting last week, citing hazardous conditions such as violence and crime.
But the campers were told that moving to parks across the city was acceptable, and were handed flyers with options at 12 city parks, including Beacon Hill Park.
Minister Selina Robinson told a news conference that BC Housing is working to find permanent homes for those who want them, but that communities must also be open to potential new neighbours.
“We have a lot of work to do together to make sure that we have housing for these folks. No one wants to see people without homes,” Robinson said.
“I don’t believe I have come across any BCers who relish the fact that there are people who don’t have homes. And we need to work together to identify as much opportunity to build housing as we can.”
Beacon Hill Park has more than 100 tenters already, and the fact that it was still listed on the flyer concerns Janice Williams of the group Save Beacon Hill Park.
She said she wants the city to enforce the bylaw that requires people who camp in parks overnight to clean up and clear out the next morning.
“(It’s) kind of heartbreaking because it’s pretty forecastable that some degree of fencing off for some period of time is going to need to happen,” Williams told Global News.
“To look at areas where there has been entrenched camping and make sure those areas are safe.”
The city said it’s too soon to know the cost to remediate Centennial Square, and couldn’t say when any of the fenced off parks will reopen.
The province’s efforts to address homelessness have come to a head during the COVID-19 pandemic, with officials moving campers at Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver and Topaz Park and Pandora Avenue in Victoria to temporary housing in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.
It’s resulted in tent cities cropping up again somewhere else, such as Centennial Square and Vancouver’s Strathcona Park, where about 400 tents have been set up in about two months.
According to the latest count, at least 400 people from Victoria’s homeless population have been placed in temporary supportive-housing facilities in former hotels, while another 275 are living outside.
– with a file from Brad MacLeod