North Park residents protest Victoria city hall’s plans for new homeless services site

North Park residents protest Victoria city hall's plans for new homeless services site

North Park residents are not happy with the city’s decision to help open a service facility along Dowler Place that would replace current services on the 900-block of Pandora Avenue.

The new facility will be opening with wrap-around community-based services to address the risks and impacts of homelessness.

The facility will be operated by SOLID Outreach Society with up to $1.8 million in annual funding from the City of Victoria.

The city also gave a one-time grant of $300,000 to acquire the property at 2155 Dowler Pl.

Residents of North Park protested outside city hall Thursday morning, led by resident Josh Montgomery.

“Thank you for joining us today. We are the community that’s surrounding the recently proposed service hub and drug consumption site on Dowler Place in Victoria,” Montgomery said to the crowd of approximately 50.

The residents say the city is fast-tracking a proposed service hub to replace services currently located in the 900-block of Pandora Avenue.

“I don’t think anyone here today is disputing the need for services like this in our community. I think we are all supportive of what’s being proposed here. We just haven’t been talked to about what the site even is. We don’t know what is going to happen when the site is closed after hours. We don’t, we really don’t know anything about this site,” said local resident Matt Macatee.

On Tuesday, Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto announced the project.

“What’s at Dowler is that combination of wrap-around day services, which will welcome people who are using drugs, to be perfectly straightforward,” she said at the time. “But it’s intended to provide support, counselling, dispatch, referrals.”

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But some people at the protest are not convinced.

That includes the Victoria Beacon Hill candidate for the Conservative Party of B.C., Tim Thielmann.

“There are going to be 300 people per day smoking fentanyl next door to a school. That’s fish in a barrel to the city’s drug dealers pimps and thieves,” he said at the rally.

The only inhalation site for opioids in the city is The Harbour, located at 926 Pandora Ave., operated by Island Health.

The mayor says the Dowler Place location will provide up to 50 beds for overnight sheltering.

But it’s not a consumption site.

“Absolutely not,” said Alto. “Clearly there are people who use drugs who will use the other services that are offered there. It is not an OPS, it is not an overdose prevention site.”

Because it’s a real estate transaction, the city did not give the North Park community advance notice.

Island Health says it is not involved in planning around the Dowler Place site, nor has it received a request for designation related to an overdose prevention site.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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