Saturday, May 18, 2024

Victoria considers banning overnight sheltering in Vic West and Irving Parks


In tomorrow’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Victoria City Councillors Jeremy Caradonna and Krista Loughton will bring forth a motion to ban unhoused Victorians from sheltering overnight in Irving and Vic West Parks. 

According to Caradonna and Loughton, sheltering in Victoria parks has taken place for years, but was exacerbated by the pandemic reducing the number of shelter beds in the city. 

Currently, there are just five of parks that unhoused Victorians are permitted to shelter in overnight between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

This number was recently reduced from nine in November of last year when Stadacona, Topaz Park, Hollywood Park and Regatta Point Park were added to the list of parks where overnight sheltering is not permitted. 

For those parks, the City hired a relocation coordinator to identify the individuals sheltering in the park up until a specific date and to “house or better shelter” them. 

16 individuals were identified from these four parks, plus an additional nine who were offered housing or better shelter.

“As of October 25th, everyone from the list of 16 has either received housing or better shelter, are no longer sheltering in the named parks or have declined offers of housing assistance from the Parks Relocation team,” said Shannon Perkins, Director of Bylaw and Licencing Services at the time of the last four parks having an overnight shelter ban being put on them. 

The City never confirmed how many of these 25 individuals were actually given access to housing.

According to Caradonna and Loughton’s council member motions, those who shelter in Irving Park and Vic West Park move frequently between the park they take refuge in and Pandora Avenue. 

They added that they believe by housing those who shelter in these parks will take some burden away from Pandora Avenue and the services offered in that area. 

Recently the HEART and HEARTH programs have been brought into the city because Victoria signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Province.

This MOU was signed in an agreement that would see more services brought in to aid Victoria’s unhoused community and find suitable solutions.

“The intention of HEART and HEARTH, in the Victoria context, is to address the encampments on Victoria’s streets and in its parks,” reads the council members’ motion.  

“The reopening of Caledonia Place (formerly known as Tiny Town) has resulted in 30 people moving from area shelters into that facility, thereby freeing up 30 beds in shelters that can help reduce the burdens placed on the City’s parks.” 

According to Caradonna and Loughton, more shelter space is expected to “come online soon,” which will reduce the need for unhoused Victorians to sleep rough in City parks. 

The two councillors will discuss this motion in the Committee of the Whole meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 18th. 

There, they will request that City staff be put to work with all relevant service providers to “house or better shelter” those currently sheltering in Irving and Vic West Parks.

They will also recommend that city council work toward banning sheltering in these parks by August 1st. 

If this motion carries and is made a bylaw, Oaklands Park, Gonzales Park and Pemberton Park will be the only parks in which overnight sheltering is permitted. 

Curtis Blandy

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