Residents near Victoria hotel housing homeless asking province for more support

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WatchResidents of a building near one of the province's leased hotels for the homeless are calling for action, following a standoff with Victoria police yesterday. The group has been trying to get help as they say things around their building have become more and more unsafe. Julian Kolsut has this story

Residents of the Treelane Estates beside the Travelodge on Gorge Road East say their calls for more help from the province have not been answered.

The Gorge Road East hotel has been leased by the province to house those who are homeless during the pandemic.

Treelane Estates residents have been asking for help since May, and after an incident Tuesday where Victoria Police had a standoff, they have renewed their calls for help.

“There is constant yelling screaming fighting, sometimes from 9 o’clock at night until 5:30 in the morning,” said resident Brent Laing.

“We had a fight here last week all the police were out. We are afraid to go out to our park-aide because we have been accosted by people, and sooner or later sometime is going to be attacked it has reached that level.”

Problems in the area have been so bad, they have started keeping logbooks in their lobbies. The strata council says they’ve been reaching out to the province, including to B.C. Housing who runs the site, since May. They say all they want from the province is more support to help control the problems in the area.

They say other than their local MLA, they have heard nothing.

“We have had 35 separate incidents,” said strata council member Jennifer Almeida.

“From vandalism, break-ins, drug use, inappropriate sexual behaviour, screaming in their units in the middle of the night, which has now impacted the seniors in the building. We are 60 per cent Seniors.”

But BC Housing says they have been working with Treelane.

“In May, we met with neighbours and have been in regular contact since,” BC Housing said in a statement. “As part of this, our staff have been having ongoing discussions with representatives from Treelane Estates, and met with them along with the local MLA.”

BC Housing also said using hotels as temporary supportive housing during a pandemic is vital to protecting those vulnerable populations.

“Using hotels as temporary supportive housing during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a vital step in protecting vulnerable people and mitigating the spread of the virus. It also serves as a bridge until long-term housing solutions are in place,” BC Housing added.

The strata says things are becoming worse by the day, saying trespassing is becoming normal.

“At this stage of the game, we are already putting up security, because we have not had a response from anybody and we are in a desperate situation, But however, we too need them to take ownership to protect us,” said Almeida.

Residents say the new security system could cost them over $100,000.

Advocates agree that additional supports could help those inside.

“Oh absolutely we need more,” said Fred Cameron, SOLID Outreach operations manager. “When you move that many people that quickly there are going to be all sorts of issues and a lot of the problems that were being dealt with in the past were lost in the shuffle. So we are almost starting again as service providers. We are a very small non-profit at solid outreach and we are running around as fast as we can.”

The sit was first assisted by SOLID and now AVI. But advocates add that the problem is complex.

“It’s going to take time and community development, it’s not just a matter of providing support and fixing a problem. You have to work with the community and have them build themselves up, and that is going to take a bit of time.”

Residents just hope the province steps up to help reach that sooner.

Victoria police officers responded Tuesday to the Travelodge after a report that a man had fired a handgun at another person. VicPD says the suspect then entered a suite in the building.

The Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team was sent to assist as well and the incident was captured on video according to VicPD, who said they identified the suspect, contained the suite and evacuated nearby residents.

Three occupants eventually left the suite and were taken into custody without incident and the last person to leave the suite was identified as the suspect.

Police say a search of the suite turned up a compressed-air powered handgun.

VicPD recommended charges including assault with a weapon, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and discharge of an air gun with intent. The victim was not physically injured.

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