‘All forms of homelessness are unsafe’: Groups call for action to address homelessness in Victoria

'All forms of homelessness are unsafe': Groups call for action to address homelessness in Victoria

Two groups are calling on the government to work to address the growing level of homelessness in Victoria by providing housing and supports.

People living and camping on Pandora Avenue is an ever-growing reality for the city, where rents continue to rise and the cost-of-living goes up with it.

Julian Daly, Our Place Society’s CEO, says his organization surveyed the members who live on the street and none of them said they wanted to continue to live on the streets.

“I think there is not a person in this city who is not deeply concerned and dismayed by what they see on Pandora Avenue, the encampment here every day,” he said. “It causes people distress, it causes folk concern and fear and I think there’s probably not a person in this city who doesn’t want to see this camp on Pandora gone.”

As part of the survey, Our Place asked the 77 residents what it would take to get them off the streets and into homes.

Of the respondents, 95 per cent said they would need mental health or addictions support, 82 per cent had physical health concerns and housing affordability was a repeated concern.

“Folk living on the block simply do not have the income to pay for rent in our city, and affordability, combined with mental health and addiction challenges are the core challenges that are facing folk on this block and the core barriers to getting off the block,” he said.

Our Place Society is now making a push to get every single person living on the streets of Pandora into a home.

“I truly believe that we can achieve that, after all it’s only 77 people,” he said. “I think this is perfectly solvable. If we work together and everyone brings their solution to the table.”

Daly is calling on the partners in government to find additional spaces in mental health and addictions spaces and housing to help get the people off the streets, saying that every shelter bed and transitional housing that Our Place has is full.

However, the issue of homelessness in Victoria is not limited to Pandora Avenue.

The Housing Justice Project released a report Tuesday calling for homes for all people in Victoria, with eight calls to action.

“Victoria’s housing system is far from being aligned with the right to adequate housing, despite the right to housing being recognized in Canadian law in 2019,” Bruce Livingstone, a peer organizer with the Housing Justice Project said.

“All forms of homelessness are unsafe and need immediate attention. They can be solved with safe affordable, adequate homes.”

The report includes calls for the involvement of homeless people, end displacement of people living outdoors until there is housing for all, eliminate long-term stays in shelters by moving people into permanent housing, end evictions from transitional programs, and working with Indigenous people for Indigenous-led housing and culture as healing.

The 2023 point-in-time homeless count identified 1,665 people experiencing various levels of homelessness across the Capital Regional District. Of those, 242 were unsheltered and sleeping outdoors, 282 were staying in an emergency shelter, 1,096 were living in provisional accommodations, and 45 had an unknown sleeping location.

-With files from CHEK’s Mary Griffin

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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