The City of Victoria has approved a motion to provide free bus passes to the city’s unsheltered population.
The motion was brought forth by councillor Sarah Potts and seconded by councillor Sharmarke Dubow at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Thursday.
A correction by Potts at the meeting noted that the amount the city would have to pay is actually up to $2,812.50 per month, rather than the $10,625 amount previously noted in the original motion.
An existing two-for-one program through the Victoria Regional Transit Commission means the city would get $5,625 worth of bus tickets in return for spending half that amount.
The way the program works is the city would buy the amount of bus tickets ordered by outreach teams working with unhoused people in parks, and those tickets would then be distributed to the people who need them.
Potts added that there is a lot of demand for transit among unsheltered people who need bus passes so they can access shower facilities spread out across the city.
“Right now, we’re trying to serve an immediate need that has been outstanding for far too long in terms of increasing access to showers for people who are left unhoused,” said Potts.
Councillor Dubow added that free transit would also allow vulnerable populations to access other essential services like medical appointments without the barrier of having to pay for bus passes.
Mayor Helps said this program would not be unique to Victoria.
“In some way or another, every city across the country is providing… access to showers. In some places it’s a mobile truck; in other places the YMCA has opened with the support of the city,” said Helps.
“In our case here … as councillor Dubow and Potts noted, it’s an existing program, it’s existed for years, there’s nothing new about this. This is our small contribution for the next three months to make sure that people can actually get to the showers.”
The mayor further emphasized that there is nothing controversial about this program, but is Victoria’s way of helping unsheltered people access showers, like other municipalities across Canada.
Funding allocation for this program will be reviewed in three months’ time.