Groups pleased deadline to relocate homeless in Victoria is extended

Groups pleased deadline to relocate homeless in Victoria is extended
WatchSaturday was supposed to be the deadline for all campers to be moved out of Pandora Avenue and Topaz park, but the people are still there. The province extended their deadline to clear the sites Friday. As Julian Kolsut reports, advocates are applauding the extension, but others say it may still not be enough time to get everyone out.

Groups working with homeless people on Pandora Avenue and Topaz Park are applauding the province’s decision to extend the deadline for the relocate them.

The original date to have campers moved to temporary housing to protect against COVID-19 transmission was May 9.

However, that date has now been moved to May 20.

Around 350 people were living at Topaz Park and Pandora Avenue, but BC Housing said in a tweet on Saturday that approximately 100 people had been removed from those locations.

Fred Cameron, of Victoria’s SOLID organization, said the delay was expected.

“We all kind of assumed that was coming,” Cameron said. “I know they have to put a date in but it was not a realistic one from the start. There are simply too many people and not enough places to go.”

The homeless community at the camps are, however, feeling a sense of relief.

“This is a population that largely does not have access to television phone internet,” said Cameron. “Now they are waiting to find out from staff that also don’t know and then the police start coming in, it started to scare them a lot.”

RELATED: ‘This needs to be done carefully:’ Province to dismantle homeless camps at Topaz Park and Pandora Avenue

Island Health’s Victoria Inner City COVID Response Team had raised concerns about the deadline earlier this week and said the later date will give them and other groups more time to get the move right.

“I’m thrilled really, that May 9 date didn’t give us enough time to do medical triage and get people the services they need to ensure a successful move indoors,” said Dr. Anne Nguyen of VICCR.

VICCR also said the province is doing a better job of listening to local groups who have their fingers on the pulse of the encampments.

“What we noticed early on was decisions made without enough consultation,” said Nguyen, adding. “I really feel a huge amount of responsiveness from the province, from the ministers. [They are] really listening to the concerns from the residence, and the partner agencies that serve them.”

READ MORE: Victoria’s Save-On-Foods Memorial to become emergency response centre amid COVID-19

But some advocates feel the new date could still be too soon.

“To be honest with you I foresee it being pushed back again,” added Cameron.

“It feels better, I don’t know what it’s going to look like from a week from now.”

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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