‘Game-changing’ announcement expected for Victoria homeless

'Game-changing' announcement expected for Victoria homeless
WatchMore than a month after tent cities sprung up on Victoria's Pandora Avenue and Topaz Park, word a "game changing" solution is coming. April Lawrence reports.

Danica Jeffery says her neighbourhood has changed so much in the past few weeks she now feels like a prisoner in her own home.

“[I’m] like really really worried, I’m scared, I’m scared for the safety of my son,” Jeffery said.

Jeffery has lived in her building at Cook Street and Pandora Avenue for the past two years but over the last month, a tent city has been growing outside her doorstep.

There are now an estimated 200 people living along the corridor, many of them forced from local shelters because of COVID-19 social distancing rules.

She says since then her four-year-old has witnessed people urinating, defecating, and using drugs.

“So my child has unfortunately born witness to injections happening. We’ve found needles, there has been a break-in into our building,” she said.

Her building is now reinforcing fencing because of the break-ins but Jeffery wants to see the tent city gone as soon as possible.

The feeling is shared by those who live and work near the Topaz Park temporary homeless camp.

“This neighbourhood is not really set up to be the centre of operations for this,” said Kelly Greenwell, executive director of the Quadra Village Community Centre.

Greenwell says with increases in crime those in his neighbourhood are desperate for a solution, and he’s now received word a “game-changing” provincial announcement is coming Saturday.

“I think this announcement will focus on indoor options and that there will be enough indoor options for everybody,” he said. “We’re told that those will be more appealing than camping here at Topaz Park so we’re hopeful about that side of it.”

Greenwell says there’s no doubt, whatever the details of the announcement, it will take a lot of work to make it happen and get everyone living in Topaz and on Pandora inside.

Danica Jeffery is cautiously optimistic help is on the way.

“I know that they are really trying to make changes, I don’t know that it’s going to happen soon,” she said.

She says she’s been told by the City of Victoria that if campers choose to stay behind anyway, their tents won’t be removed. She says the whole experience has left her so upset she’s now looking for another place to live.

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Shane Simpson and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy will be making an announcement on April 25 regarding supporting people experiencing homelessness in Vancouver and Victoria during the COVID-19 state of provincial emergency.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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