Just two days after homeless campers were forced from Victoria’s Centennial Square, city council has voted in favour of allowing some shelters to return.
City staff cleared out the encampment Tuesday amid growing crime and violence in the area. Victoria police recently broke up a drug ring allegedly operating from tents in the encampment.
The change in policy came at a marathon council of the whole meeting focused on the city’s homeless problem.
A staff report had proposed adding half a dozen parks, including Centennial Square, to the list of city parks where overnight sheltering is banned.
But councillors decided to remove the square, which is located directly outside Victoria City Hall, from the list.
Coun. Geoff Young, who proposed the change, acknowledged the pressure the encampment was putting on downtown businesses, but said if the tents were properly spaced and the square well policed the campers should be allowed to return.
“In many ways centennial square is not an inappropriate location,” said Young.
“I think having the tents there to serve as a reminder and perhaps expose the councillors to what people live around the parks are being exposed to, in terms of people yelling at them and all the various nuisances that accompany that.”
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps voted against allowing homeless shelters to return to the square.
Council also voted in favour of new rules that would set limits on the size and spacing of tents. All of the changes will still need to be formally approved in bylaw amendments at a future council meeting.
Centennial Square remained closed on Thursday, as the city remediated and repaired the area.