A large team of Victoria bylaw officers moved in on a homeless encampment on Princess Avenue Tuesday morning, taking down structures and filling dump trucks as Victoria police stood watch.
Dennis Davies has been living on Princess Avenue for years and is used to daily sweeps telling him to move along but he says when bylaw quit showing up about a week ago others started joining him.
“There was nine of us that wanted to be feeling safe in the community that were homeless,” Davies said.
But he admits their temporary shelter did become overrun with garbage, tools and building materials.
“I was building a house for someone that needed better shelter than a tent and we got out of hand with a little bit of wood and a construction site.”
He says now nearly everything they own has been impounded and they have nowhere to go. Advocates say the street sweeps achieve nothing.
“I understand that bylaw has to do their job, that’s their job, we get that, but we also get that there’s nowhere for these people to go so confiscating their belongings, their tents, and moving them along doesn’t solve homelessness,” said Karen Mills, co-founder of Peer To Peer Indigenous Society.
City of Victoria staff removed a homeless encampment that had been growing on Princess Avenue Tuesday, April 11, 2023.
In a statement, the City of Victoria says extra staff were required to remove a buildup of items and property because they hadn’t been able to attend the location for several days.
It says residents were told they had a period of time to collect their personal belongings and essentials and the rest would be impounded. Impounded items are kept for a 30-day time period and are available through the bylaw office for return.
Many in the Victoria street community are on high alert after watching what’s been happening the past week in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside where city staff and police have been out every day clearing out tents and belongings.
“They told us to pack up or lose your stuff. So we packed up and moved and when they left we came back. And the next day we did the same thing,” said DTES resident Jason Rondeau.
READ MORE: Newly appointed Pandora Avenue caretakers help transform troubled Victoria street
Advocates say the daily cycle will continue until changes are made like raising shelter rates and providing ‘dignified’ housing options.
“We don’t need SRO’s and shelters full of bugs that you yourself wouldn’t sleep in at night, and myself as a woman I wouldn’t even go there,” said Mills.
Dennis Davies says in the short-term he has an idea — adding storage containers in vacant lots so that people can pack up their belongings each morning and store them safely until evening.
“That way everything’s clean, nobody sees anything,” he said. “I’m sure the homeless people would be willing to chip in if we could.”