Victoria mayor’s motion to fast track social services and shelters passes first step

Victoria mayor's motion to fast track social services and shelters passes first step
An overhead view of tents people have set up in the 900 block of Pandora Avenue.

Victoria staff have been directed to bring forward rezoning for most of the city to allow centres with social services for unhoused people to open across the city after a vote in council.

Marianne Alto, mayor of Victoria, put forward a motion asking staff to return to council with recommendations on zoning amendments to allow social services across the whole city.

The motion aims to address the homelessness crisis, Alto wrote in her preamble for the motion.

“Most persons experiencing homelessness live within municipal boundaries and shelter, as best they can, on municipally owned property, primarily streets and parks,” Alto wrote.

The motion, which passed 6-2 in committee of the whole then 6-1 in daytime council, included stipulations that the number of overnight shelter spaces not exceed 50 and social services must not be located within 100 metres of another social service.

Coun. Chris Coleman was absent from both meetings and Coun. Stephen Hammond was absent from the daytime council meeting.

Hammond and Coun. Marg Gardiner voted in opposition to the motion in committee of the whole, then Gardiner voted in opposition in daytime council.

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“What I really appreciate about this too is that it’s a zoning for social services for unhoused Victorians, because it explicitly names what has not existed,” Coun. Susan Kim said. “We have had social services for housed Victorians. They’re called community centers, they’re called rec centers.”

Coun. Jeremy Caradonna noted that Victoria continues to do the vast majority of the work on providing social housing and supports for unhoused people across the Capital Regional District.

“I believe we are, at the 888 supportive housing units across the CRD, we have now 736, we have practically all of the shelters. So I get it. We cannot do this entirely on our own. We are full, we are full, but there is still demand that we have to respond to. There’s still people sleeping on our streets,” Caradonna said.

“Not all the people who sleep on our streets in our parks come from Victoria, and I know that’s a controversial thing to say sometimes, but it’s true. People come from across the CRD, they come from across Canada, and other jurisdictions in this province and in this country, need to step up and do their part.”

Gardiner, on the other hand, said Victoria has done its part and stepped up and residents are tired of being the ones to step up.

“The residents of Victoria have proven they are compassionate, but they have been tested a bit too far,” Gardiner said. “While the motion suggests that the risks are acceptable, those businesses and residents that will bear the risks may not agree with that statement.”

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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