B.C’s Representative for Children and Youth says at least 10 teenagers, including some in government care, will likely be included in the number. Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond says that puts many of them at risk.
The construction of another shelter at Victoria’s tent city.
With a population estimated at more than 100.
But it’s the underage residents who are a concern to BC’s Representative for Children and Youth.
18-year-old “Liz” moved to tent city before Christmas. She’s one of 10 minors.
“I know there’s been some pretty extreme things and terrible things that have happened during tent city.”
BC’s Representative for Children and Youth says she understands why street kids migrate to the camp.
“The tent city environment creates a surrogate family for them. The issue of their safety and the durability of those relationships are not ideal.”
Social workers visit the site daily.
The ministry considers tent city to “high risk”, and encourages all youth to find safer living arrangements.
But Turpel Lafond says as long as they live here, there are risks.
“There’s open accepted drug use. We have some very powerful street drugs that have proven fatal to be very dangerous, fentanyl. And we know it’s there.”
But “Liz” says she is careful at the camp.
“You can always choose to surround yourself with drugs or alcohol. You don’t have to associate with people or be around them while they are using.”
That’s hard to do in a close-knit environment, and according to Turpel-Lafond, that leaves young people here vulnerable.
“We also know for young girls and women that they frequently experience unwanted sexual activity, they are the target for that. And combined with drug use and that, harm happens.”
She wants the kids out, and hopes they’ll all be gone by the February 25th deadline.