‘Kicked us off the block’: Pandora Ave. sweep impacts those living in tents

'Kicked us off the block': Pandora Ave. sweep impacts those living in tents
Police and bylaw officials are pictured along Pandora Avenue on May 16, 2024.

About a dozen tents are scattered throughout James Bay’s Irving Park, each soaking wet after hours of heavy rain.

Neil Dwier pitched his tent in the park last week “because the other day, they came down to Pandora and took everybody’s tent and kicked us off the block down there,” he says.

On Thursday, bylaw moved in and moved out the tents and belongings of the residents living in the 40 to 50 tents in the 900-block of Pandora, including Dwier.

He doesn’t have access to methadone because he’s worried if he leaves the park to get it, someone will steal his tent, so he is back to using fentanyl.

Now, he says his life and the lives of the others evicted from Pandora are much harder.

“Because that’s where the pharmacy is, where the clinic is. That’s where Our Place is. That’s where access to everything is. The medical, that’s where the mobile van from Cool-Aid comes. And out here, there is nothing,” Dwier said.

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Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto told the media last week that the Pandora sweep was nothing out of the ordinary.

“It is a difficult, difficult area to manage. And I’m absolutely confident that our staff are doing the same job they do every day,” she said.

But those who live and work on the block say it was anything but ordinary.

And today, many are still too afraid to return yet have nowhere else to go, according to Fred Cameron, operations coordinator at SOLID Outreach Society.

“We run a small shelter that is at a capacity of thirty beds,” he said.

“And we are turning people away seven days a week. So that’s even in the spring with the nice weather. The need is definitely there.”

Advocates for the city’s unhoused say the sweep ultimately pushed people further into isolation. Add in the wet weather, and it’s made day-to-day life harder than ever.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like when you’re out there and your socks are wet. You are trying to find help that is difficult to line up or doesn’t exist,” said Cameron.

“How difficult it is to remain enthusiastic when you are in that, and then to have someone pushing you around, and telling you you can’t be there, and throwing your stuff out.”

As for Dwier and others sheltering at Irving Park, they hope they can at least tent there until they find somewhere more permanent.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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