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The City of Victoria is considering hiring additional bylaw officers after the province announced measures to enforce provincial health orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Municipal bylaw officers will henceforth have the power to issue fines of over $25,000 or arrests for people found disobeying Dr. Henry’s social distancing directives, gatherings of 50 or more people, and for businesses that have not yet closed despite the provincial health order.

During her daily briefing on Thursday, Victoria mayor Lisa Helps applauded these measures as well as the announcement that the province can requisition city facilities for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution purposes.

Henceforth, the City of Victoria will also be waiving penalties for late payment of utility fees as a small measure to help residents financially.

To help small businesses, the municipal government is calling on the province to impose a ban on evictions and announce rent relief measures for small businesses and non profits, similar to those announced for residential tenants.

For homeless populations in Victoria, the city will be moving them to temporary outdoor shelter sites at Topaz Park and Royal Athletic Park.

Beacon Hill Park is no longer being considered as a temporary shelter option upon the recommendation of Island Health Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick.

The decision to focus on two sites rather than three was taken to maximize efficiency, and because the infrastructure at Topaz and Royal Athletic Parks already provide washrooms and cleaning facilities, whereas port-a-potties would have to be installed at Beacon Hill Park.

Support for homeless population

According to mayor Helps, Island Health and BC Housing are working on finding proper indoor shelter facilities that will allow homeless populations to maintain social distances.

Thus far, Island Health has secured 30 beds for members of unsheltered community who may be presenting as symptomatic.

The City of Victoria has also sequestered a block of 35 motel rooms that will be used to house homeless people that are healthy and not displaying symptoms of the virus. These rooms will be available to the city for one month and be paid for by Emergency Management BC.

“The city will be working with Coalition to End Homelessness to make sure 35 people can get into those rooms as soon as possible,” said Helps.

BC Housing is also working to try and secure entire motels for the purposes of sheltering vulnerable populations. Helps says 35 rooms is just a start.

The mayor also gave a shoutout to a local initiative to provide warm meals to unsheltered people in Victoria.

The initiative, created by Victoria Restaurants, the Downtown Victoria Business Association, and Coalition to End Homelessness, is called Boxes of Hope and allows downtown restaurants to keep their kitchens open and provide meals to homeless people.

For every $10 donated to Boxes of Hope, one warm meal will be provided to someone who needs it.

Donations can be made at www.victoriahomelessness.ca/boxesofhope.