‘I appeal for patience’: B.C.’s premier says more help coming to address Victoria homeless camps

WatchWith growing safety issues at Victoria's Central Park homeless camp, many are calling on the province to step in and now B.C. Premier John Horgan says help is coming. April Lawrence reports.

Every day that goes by, there are more tents at Victoria’s Central Park and more concerns from those who live around it.

That includes one woman who says she no longer feels safe leaving her house.

“I don’t feel safe walking outside my house in the evening and even during the day I feel a little bit unsettled now,” said Marilyn, who didn’t feel comfortable using her last name.

Victoria’s police chief says he has no doubts if left to grow, the encampment will become a major problem.

“I am in favour of taking the camps down and not allowing entrenchment to occur because when we see entrenchment occur, it does lead to further problems. I have yet to see an encampment that hasn’t grown where there hasn’t been significant concerns for public safety,” said Chief Del Manak.

With tensions growing around Central Park and Beacon Hill Park, one camper has put up signs offering a “NIMBY anger management class”. He says it’s to try to lighten the mood.

“It’s meant as a sense of humour and a sense to say hey, let’s have a laugh about this let’s just all calm down a little bit,” said Beacon Hill camper Shea Smith.

Smith admits there is a criminal element in the street community and that he himself has a criminal record. But he insists it’s not because they’re all bad people.

“I was a ward of the court since I was 14 so crimes of survival? I have yes, I’ve been there and done that and unfortunately that is a cycle of poverty and that’s what I’d really like to see broken,” he said.

READ MORE: Campers ordered out of Victoria’s Centennial Square due to criminal activity

On Thursday, B.C. Premier John Horgan assured the people who live in, and around, homeless camps that help is coming.

“This is a complex issue, people understand that, and I appeal for patience,” Horgan said.

He said he’s working with mayors in municipalities across the province as well as the housing minister to come up with solutions.

“We’ll have more to say in the weeks ahead but we’re certainly not finished and we have much much more work to do,” he said.

But even Victoria’s police chief says the answer isn’t as simple as providing more housing.

“It’s a myth to say that once these people are housed, a lot of these issues are going to go away,” said Manak.

He says many in the camps are chronically ill people who need mental health and addictions support. And until more are provided camping and the crime that often comes with it, will likely remain a reality.

READ MORE: Victoria city council proposes allowing camping in Centennial Square once again

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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