Fencing goes up as process to move Victoria’s homeless campers begins

Fencing goes up as process to move Victoria's homeless campers begins
WatchThose who live near Victoria's Pandora Avenue homeless camp are eager to see campers transition to motel rooms but are doubtful it will happen quickly. April Lawrence reports.

Fencing was going up along Victoria’s Pandora Avenue Monday morning to enclose a tent city that has been growing since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

On Saturday, the province announced it will be moving all campers out of the Pandora and Topaz Park encampments, about 350 people in total, to hotel rooms secured throughout the city.

READ MORE: Province to dismantle homeless camps at Topaz Park and Pandora Avenue

The plan is to move 15 to 20 campers each day, but two days after the announcement, neighbours say other than a noticeable increase in police officers and security guards, not much appears to be happening.

“Since the announcement was made I think I’ve seen three tents come down I do not see a lot of action, no one seems to be worried that is living there, nobody is giving out any information on what the plan is,” said Pandora Avenue resident Valentina Lawrence.

The hotels that have agreed to house the campers are doing so voluntarily, on a contract basis.

“For motel owners that are operating at five per cent occupancy, this type of deal might be really important for them. It’s important for their staff cause it’ll bring some of their staff back,” said Downtown Victoria Business Association Executive Director Jeff Bray.

“I presume there’s probably some negotiations with respect to how these rooms will be remediated at the end of this process, and for some motel owners that were thinking about doing some remodelling or renovations over the next couple of years this probably just dovetails really well with that business planning,” he said.

While the temporary accommodations will come with extensive supports, including meals, laundry, health care, addictions treatment and harm reduction, Bray says a more permanent solution is needed.

“Our hope though is that we don’t just get through this pandemic and immediately return to the status quo, that this has to be the start of a more permanent change, and we have to have a serious conversation about how we support those that have multiple barriers in the community,” Bray said.

The plan is to have both camps dismantled by May 9.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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