The City of Victoria has announced a range of temporary shelter site options for vulnerable populations to access during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a press conference on Monday, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps announced that the city is working with Island Health, BC Housing, the Dandelion Society, and other local service agencies to identify measures to help protect vulnerable and homeless populations.
“Right now all the people living outside are not able to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s orders and as a community we have to make sure they can,” says Mayor Helps.
Effective immediately, the city has authorized the use of Beacon Hill Park and Topaz Park as temporary shelter sites. Residents at those locations will be able to access health information, meals, washrooms, hand washing stations and health professionals.
As more and more people have become displaced due to the closure of shelters like Our Place Society, Mayor Helps announced that for the time being, hand washing stations will be installed along Pandora Avenue to encourage hygiene measures required per Dr. Bonnie Henry’s orders.
BC Housing and Island Health are also preparing indoor facilities at Royal Athletic Park as a temporary shelter space to allow vulnerable people to follow social distancing measures. Mayor Helps says a plan for this facility should be ready within the next week.
Additionally the building at 938 Mason Street will be temporarily used during the pandemic as a triaging and test site for members of homeless community.
Details on how to convert and create this facility are being worked out by BC Housing and Island Health.
The city looking at indoor options for homeless people to get shelter over the next four to six months. Island Health is also working on finding self isolation beds and spaces for unsheltered community members who test positive for COVID-19.
Mayor Helps said the City of Victoria is not currently looking at declaring a state of emergency or issuing fines to people gathering in large groups.
However she reiterates that the municipality has closed all parks, playgrounds, and outdoor recreation facilities.
Council has also suspended the holding of public hearings, question period sections of council, and limited requests to address council.
Helps reassures the public that the shelters being set up at parks are temporary measures implemented for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently there are 472 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. including 39 on Vancouver Island.
The federal government recently announced an $82 billion assistance package for Canadians and businesses struggling financially during the global pandemic.
Earlier this week, B.C. joined Alberta and Ontario in declaring a public health emergency in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.
On Wednesday, B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth declared a provincial state of emergency to support the health ministry’s public health emergency.
The provincial government also announced the indefinite suspension of all in-person classes at K-12 schools in B.C.
Canada has tightened its borders and is denying entry to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents in Canada.
U.S. citizens are no longer an exception to this rule, and non-essential travel between U.S. and Canada will be temporarily banned by March 21st. Moreover international flights have now been restricted to international airports in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary.
The BCCDC has set up a 2019 novel coronavirus telephone information line at 1-833-784-4397 for those who have further questions about this disease.
Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, should contact their primary care provider, local public health office, or call 8-1-1.
The Province has also created the 1-888-COVID-19 line to connect British Columbians needing non-medical information about the coronavirus pandemic.
As of the time of publication, the total number of COVID-19 patients worldwide has risen to 375,438.
Nearly 16,500 people have died from the illness and 101,584 have made a full recovery.