Topaz Park has been home to several of the city’s unhoused for a number of years.
A temporary homeless camp was set up during the pandemic and despite millions of dollars in improvements around the park, the tents are still there today.
“We don’t see an end to it and it was one thing when COVID was happening and it was an emergency situation, we just stood back and said, ‘Ok, let’s let the experts handle it,’ but now this is going to just continue happening,” says Gord Faller, a resident who lives nearby.
Residents say they’ve voiced their concerns to city hall and now with summer around the corner, parents fear children will be using the new skate and bike park right next to what they say is a steady flow of open drug use and crime.
“The city on a daily basis, at least three or four times a week, send bylaw here, right next to the kids in the skate park to clean up needles and naloxone kits, and then the illegal campers move to the edge of the park and then five hours later when they’re gone they move back and the residents go through another night of hell,” says Jeff Peters, who lives in the neighbourhood.
But Victoria’s Mayor Marianne Alto believes residents’ concerns will be answered in time.
On Thursday the city approved a motion from Alto for what’s being called the Community Safety and Wellbeing Initiative.
“It’s in my view, time for us to make the choices we need to make to redefine community safety and to re-imagine wellbeing,” says Alto.
However, how exactly the motion will redefine community safety remains unclear.
Currently, the plan only includes a steering committee made up of ten community leaders — and who will make up that committee has also yet to be determined.
“Probably would be a bit remiss for me to actually point that out at this point, the purpose of this is for us to confirm what we think we know and what we think our communities issues are, but also then to look very expansively and very imaginatively about how we respond to all of that,” Alto adds.
While the specifics will have to wait, the Mayor says she hears the concerns from residents around Topaz Park and believes this re-imagined approach to community safety will help.
Developing the plan will take at least a year.