For the first time since tent city appeared downtown, Tourism Victoria officials are speaking out on the negative affects they are starting to see for hotels and businesses.
Theirs is part of a growing chorus of voices who are concerned about the changing dynamics in the downtown core.
“Never in my 25 years of retailing have I seen a week like last week,” said Teri Hustins, a downtown business owner on the changing activity, and changing faces they are seeing downtown, “I know many of the faces downtown. And some of these faces are not people I have seen before.”
Suzanne Bradbury of the Downtown Victoria Business Association also addressed city council last night, sharing some of the horror stories that business owners have related to her in recent weeks, “On two separate occasions, two lone female staff members were followed and harassed walking home after their shifts by men who emerged from the direction of the tent city.”
Tourism Victoria is also speaking out for the first time city tent city popped up, claiming that local hotel operators are starting to see significant ill affects as well.
“The Hotel Association in Greater Victoria last week did a survey of their members, because they noticed a spike and reported that they had roughly a 500% increase in security costs,” said Paul Nursey, CEO of Tourism Victoria.
Chek News spoke with many of the hotel operators in the area this morning, none were willing to talk on camera and none were willing to confirm increased security costs. And there may be a good explanation why many are reluctant to speak out.
“People are terrified to speak up, go outside, have their businesses robbed, or robbed again,” says Stephen Hammond, area resident and member of the group Mad As Hell Victoria, “and they cant say a word. They know if they do, the next morning , their windows will be smashed in.”
However, changes could be on the way.
The province has hired the Portland Hotel Society to monitor the site on a regular basis
“They can get the site cleaned up and make sure its safe for residents living there and nearby residents,” says Mayor Lisa Helps, “but Minister Coleman brought them in to get those people housed and that’s what they’re aiming to do.”
But while they’re open to discussions, the residents of tent city are balking at the prospect of being governed.
“We’re doing it very well here. The judge said that. We’re getting along. Certainly we need some resources, but on our terms and what we want,” says Al Tysick, former director at Our Place Society, and representative of tent city.
It may not be long before the Society is on site 24 hours a day, and it could stay that way until the next court injunction is held in September.