Banning camping in downtown Victoria will just push homeless problem elsewhere, say advocates

WatchBusinesses say the growing numbers of homeless camping in Centennial Square are to blame for an increase in crime. As Victoria's mayor floats the idea of banning camping downtown, advocates say that's just pushing the problem around.

It’s been a tough time for businesses in Victoria’s downtown core.

“What has our past year and a bit been like? It’s been pretty crazy!” said B. Woodward, co-owner of Cherry Bomb Toys.

In May of 2019, a massive fire forced them to close, then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, followed by further shutdowns, now they’re dealing with a surge in crime.

“And then not even a month ago, I got attacked outside the store,” said Woodward.

Woodward says he was assaulted while escorting a fearful customer out of his shop.

“What is a person is going to get killed outside my store before you make changes?” Woodward said to CHEK News.

“For me, once. That’s enough, move em!”

Many in downtown Victoria are connecting an increase in break and enters and mischief, to the growing encampment at Centennial Square.

Now, Mayor Lisa Helps says she’s ready to consider banning camping downtown Victoria altogether.

The only problem is there’s no obvious place for the campers to go.

So far UVIC, CFB Esquimalt, Ogden Point, and Oak Bay Lodge have all been looked at as sites to house the homeless. But so far, there have been no takers, and Helps says the city can’t solve the problem by itself.

“The solution to homelessness is housing,” said Helps.

“We have been working with the provincial government to continue their leadership on housing. And we’ve been pushing the federal government to match the provincial spending on COVID-related homelessness.”

But before those long-term housing solutions are in place, advocates are concerned that closing the camp downtown in the meantime will just shuffle all the problems to another neighbourhood.

“I don’t even see how it’s going to reduce harm in the meantime,” Daniel Jackson, a staff lawyer with Together Against Poverty Society.

“The same problems that exist downtown are just going to move somewhere else.”

Alternatively, Cherry Bomb Toys says their business doesn’t have time to wait.

“COVID has kicked us. We’re down! We’re all down! We’re all trying to survive! But we need our city council to back us up,” said Woodward.

Meanwhile, the provincial eviction moratorium and rent supplements are coming to an end. And advocates worry they may see many more without homes, very soon.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!