Victoria council votes to end daytime camping in parks as of May 1

Victoria council votes to end daytime camping in parks as of May 1
Tents in Beacon Hill Park on Sept. 17, 2020.

Daytime camping in Victoria parks will no longer be allowed after city council voted to amend its camping bylaw.

Following the 7-2 vote at Thursday night’s council meeting, 24-hour sheltering in parks will end on May 1. Councillors Ben Isitt and Sharmarke Dubow opposed the motion.

It means those camping overnight in Victoria parks will have to pack up and move on between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

“It has been a challenging year since the pandemic amplified the realities of homelessness, and having people sheltering in parks has not been ideal for anyone,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said in a statement.

“With a commitment from the province that everyone is being offered indoor options as a pathway to permanent housing by the end of April, people will have the supports they need and the city parks can be restored to their pre-pandemic use.”

The province has set a deadline of April 30 to house as many as 190 people who have been sheltering in city parks like Beacon Hill Park. The previous deadline of March 31 will not be met because B.C. Housing Minister and Attorney General David Eby said the province wasn’t willing to pay above-market rates for hotels to house the homeless.

In addition, council added Cecelia Ravine Park, Centennial Square and Central Park to the list of parks where overnight sheltering is prohibited.

The city says since the beginning of March, 116 people who were daytime camping in parks have already been moved indoors.

Dubow wrote out his reasons for opposing the motion in a tweet, saying the city shouldn’t rush a deadline while there’s a “lack of clarity where people will go.”

Bylaw officers will inform unhoused people where they can receive social service support or available housing.

“The City will communicate the new rules with respect to parks sheltering over the next six weeks to people experiencing homelessness, service providers and other community partners,” the City of Victoria said in a statement.

The provision to allow daytime sheltering was added last year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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