Victoria city staff recommend increasing number of parks where camping is banned

Victoria city staff recommend increasing number of parks where camping is banned
File photo/CHEK
Tents in Victoria's Centennial Square.

Victoria city staff are recommending council increase the number of parks where camping is banned in an effort to deal with an increase in homeless individuals in certain parks.

The proposed parks include Centennial Square, Summit Park in the Hillside-Quadra area, Moss Rocks Park and Robert Porter Park in Fairfield, MacDonald Park and South Parks in James Bay and David Spencer Park in Oakland.

If approved by council, those parks would be added to the following list of parks already off limits to overnight sheltering:

  • Ross Bay Cemetery
  • Arbutus Park
  • Kings Park
  • Pioneer Square
  • Cridge Park
  • Coffin Island
  • Bastion Square
  • Haegert Park
  • Reeson Park
  • Quadra Park

Additionally, staff are recommending council limiting the allowable size of park shelters to three metres by three metres, along with keeping shelters separated and prohibiting temporary sheltering in parks within 50 metres of a school.

City staff also want to see restrictions on open flame appliances and combustibles and are recommending a buffer zone be created around areas where camping is allowed.

Furthermore, councillors Marianne Alto and Sarah Potts have proposed a motion recommending council approve a $40,000 plan to canvass Victoria’s homeless for feedback on what’s needed in the city in order to manage and support successful encampments.

ALSO READ: City says Centennial Square campers will be relocated to ‘other’ places in September

The recommendations and proposed motion will be debated by councillors at an upcoming council meeting on Thursday, Sept. 3.

According to recent a staff report, Victoria has seen a “marked increase” in the number of homeless camps and campers in city parks in the past year. City staff estimate there are approximately 275 people living outside and that there has been “a high frequency of incidents” in the past several months.

The report notes that council’s decision to suspend enforcing a daytime sheltering ban in city parks back in May has resulted in a “number of adverse effects” including “enlargement and entrenchment of encampments” in Victoria.

Staff, according to the report, point out that there “no simple” solution to dealing with the “complex issue of homelessness in Victoria” and that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and opioid crisis have only “exacerbated” the situation.

The full report can be read here.


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