Victoria council to hold special closed-door meeting Thursday on homeless camping

WatchVictoria's mayor has called a special closed-door council meeting to discuss legal options for better managing homeless encampments. April Lawrence reports.

Victoria’s mayor has called a special closed council meeting for Thursday, saying the meeting is that council can “receive legal advice on options for better managing the encampment situation in the city.”

“The current situation is not working for anyone. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as simply enforcing the 7-7 camping bylaw without a better plan in place,” Mayor Lisa Helps said in a statement to CHEK News.

From playgrounds to bushes, volunteers with SOLID outreach are scouring areas of Victoria each morning for discarded needles. But with people now camping in streets and parks throughout the city, it’s been impossible to keep up. So starting Monday they’re adding a second team.

“We simply don’t have the resources to clean the entire city, we do our absolute best,” said SOLID manager Fred Cameron.

On Saturday night, a man stepped on an uncapped hypodermic needle while walking along a trail in Beacon Hill Park. It was the third needle incident this month.

READ MORE: Man pricked by discarded needle in Beacon Hill Park

It’s the type of incident that’s helped propel an online petition, urging council to stop allowing 24/7 camping, to 25,000 signatures.

City Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe admits something needs to change.

“I would support at least looking at stopping the camping 24/7 unless there’s something else in place because we just can’t have unsupervised camping,” she said.

One idea being tossed around is allowing a set number of people only to camp in certain areas of certain parks.

“Each park has some sort of supervision in those parks and if you’re not on a list for that park, and within that number, then you have to be out by the morning,” said Thornton-Joe.

Many advocates say if camping is banned altogether, it will push the problem elsewhere.

Because many agree that if you just ban camping altogether, you will simply push the problem elsewhere.

“If you just keep telling people to leave, they just pack up and move down the block then you tell them they can’t be any longer because they’re loitering, there’s just no end to it,” said Cameron.

As for a solution to the needle problem, SOLID says more safe consumption sites, with longer hours would make a difference.

So would more housing, more treatment options, and more supports.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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