Save on Foods Memorial Centre
(file photo)

A Victoria-based neighbourhood association is calling on all levels of government to house people in the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

The North Park Neighbourhood Association (NPNA) has written a letter addressed to several government officials, including B.C. Minister of Housing David Eby, calling on them to immediately open the arena for indoor housing.

“This publicly-owned facility is providing no community benefit when it could be providing an urgently needed life saving service in the face of several public health emergencies: housing crisis, overdose crisis, and COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter states.

The NPNA also posted a lengthy Twitter thread on Tuesday showing photos from the encampment at Central Park.

Photos from the thread show badly flooded areas outside Crystal Pool, along with tents in a dilapidated and collapsed condition.

NPNA Executive Director Sarah Murray says that governments simply aren’t moving fast enough to help people sheltering outdoors.

“These are people that we’ve gotten to know over the course of several months,” Murray said in an interview with Victoria Buzz.

“To see them in such dire circumstances, in a park in the middle of our neighbourhood, is heartbreaking for all of us.”

The Association’s concerns have been raised with government officials before.

Victoria—Beacon Hill MLA Grace Lore attended the NPNA’s Annual General Meeting on December 7th and wrote about the issue in a letter to Minister Eby on December 14th.

“Neighbours would like to know whether the Province can and will use the powers of the
BC State of Emergency to requisition the use of the Save On Foods Memorial Arena, which was providing temporary shelter for 45 individuals,” Lore wrote.

“They highlight Dr. Henry’s Dec. 2 update requiring anyone playing sports to stay in their own community and believe that WHL hockey should not be prioritized over indoor shelter.”

The Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre is privately operated by the GSL Group, although it is owned by the City of Victoria.

In May, BC Housing opened a temporary housing facility in the Arena for up to 45 people.

They later allowed their lease on the space to expire in September, saying they would move people in the facility to housing at Paul’s Motor Inn.

Murray says that the Arena should still be used as it is an unused space in a prime location for individuals in need.

“The folks who are in Central Park now have chosen to stay there because they rely on the services that are closest,” she said.

“Going to parks further outside the downtown core isn’t going to work for them…The most urgent need right now in Central Park is to get people indoors, and that’s what the arena can do, immediately.”

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