Victoria-Beacon Hill candidates address homeless camping in city parks

WatchAll three political parties say more needs to be done to address homelessness but offer few specifics on how they'll get that done. April Lawrence reports.

Heather, a young mom who didn’t want to use her last name for safety reasons, says she’s selling her home across from Victoria’s Central Park because she no longer feels safe with a tent city across the street.

“We often hear a lot of screaming. We’ve called in numerous drug dealers outside of our home at night, four o’clock in the morning, it’s become pretty unbearable for us,” she said.

Homeless encampments have become one of the most controversial issues across B.C. and on Thursday, they took the spotlight on the campaign trail.

“We need to end these lawless camps and tent cities in city parks with a provincial mandate to help these people and reestablish order on our streets,” said B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson as he rolled out his party’s promises on dealing with homelessness, crime and mental health and addictions issues.

Wilkinson’s Liberal candidate in Victoria-Beacon Hill says it’s one of the main reasons she jumped into the race.

“I do not support 24/7 camping it is not a solution to the problem we are seeing here,” said Karen Bill.

Bill says the NDP have been “warehousing” homeless people when what they really need are supports.

“They may need things like job counselling. They may need things like addictions treatment, that doesn’t happen in a tent,” she said.

The NDP candidate for the riding agrees the current situation isn’t working.

“It’s unacceptable for folks who are sheltering in our parks but also for neighbours and community members,” said Grace Lore.

Lore says the NDP has made major investments to address homelessness but says there’s no question more needs to be done from all levels of government.

“In terms of having that wraparound care that addresses mental health, that focuses on addiction and recovery that is what we’re going to need to do and that requires collaboration,” Lore said.

READ MORE: BC NDP promises to increase student grant program to $4,000, create 2,000 tech spaces

The Green Party’s Jenn Neilson says while the NDP government has housed hundreds of people since the pandemic began, it clearly isn’t enough.

“For one thing it’s too little too late,” she said.

“I don’t think anyone should ever have to sleep in parks, I don’t think that’s okay, I think it is a provincial responsibility and that there needs to be federal action as well so that people can have a home with appropriate social care where they live,” Neilson said.

While all three parties agree something has to be done, none have specific plans yet on how to make it happen.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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