WATCH: Victoria’s city council is increasing its budget by $200,000 to clean up the city’s parks. The expense is necessary as homeless campers continue to overnight in parks. Mary Griffin reports.
Despite the rain, it was a beautiful day in Beacon Hill Park on Friday.
On the surface, there was a carefully manicured public space. But a closer look at the trails reveals evidence of camping. A wooden structure just off a trail has obviously housed people in the past.
Even though there are hundreds of new social housing units in Victoria, there is still a homeless population. And many choose to camp overnight in the city’s parks. A city bylaw allows it but they have to leave by 7 a.m. They often leave behind garbage.
Council added $200,000 to the city’s budget to clean up the parks.
“The number came from what staff have found is needed to keep the parks clean. That includes keeping washrooms open for longer hours than they normally would be open, extra security, and just plain clean up,” Victoria Coun. Carlayne Thornton-Joe said.
Other municipalities face bills related to homeless camps. A group moved into Oak Bay for three weeks this fall. The clean-up cost was $5,000.
Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said staff time cost the municipality $1,500 and a contract for a private company to collect needles cost another $1,500.
A memorial bench damaged by the campers had to be repaired.
“Every time they moved on, we did a number of things. The staff came in and cleaned up. Also, too, we hired an outside company who are specialized in needle identification, and collection, and disposal. So, those were the two major costs,” Jensen said.
Back in Beacon Hill Park, a more permanent camping site is located. A small tent city, located behind the children’s zoo, has a significant amount of garbage in the site. No one appears to be home at the moment, but it could be a result of the limited number of city parks where camping is still allowed.