Victoria council has made it clear: City parks, aren’t meant for living in. At Thursday’s committee of a whole, an amendment to a bylaw that would prohibit sheltering in four Victoria parks was given a first, second, and third reading.
Since the summer, council has been trying to move people sheltering in Stadacona Park, Topaz Park, Hollywood Park and Regatta Point Park into housing. A ‘parks relocation coordinator’ position was created and filled by Pacifica Housing, with the City of Victoria providing a list of 16 names of people who were sheltering in the four parks.
On Thursday, bylaw told city council everyone on that list has received housing, better shelter, and are no longer sheltering in the aforementioned parks, or have declined offers of housing assistance.
As a result, the city’s bylaw director asked for the city to move forward and implement the ban.
Council voted to approve the bylaw amendments, still yet to be officially adopted until a meeting next Thursday, Nov. 9. The ban would be effective immediately.
In the meeting Thursday, bylaw and councillors agreed the approach would be to “work with those who are still living in those parks.”
In the meantime, “Tiny Town,” the micro-housing site in North Park that was made available to unhoused people during the pandemic and is now been sitting empty, has been bought by BC Housing.
“Given the ongoing and urgent need for housing for people experiencing and at risk of homelessness across the province, we are currently working on a plan for the units and will provide more information when we can,” BC Housing told CHEK News in a statement.
“I’m relieved to hear BC Housing purchased it and I hope they put it to good use,” said Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto on Thursday. “I think Tiny Town has been a success and has shown how that type of sheltering can work for a particular group of people,”
And even though the parks relocation coordinator’s contract expires at the end of this year, they’re expected to continue working. Council has already approved additional funding to be pulled from the 2023 budget to extend their contract.
Next up for them will be working to find housing for those in Vic West and Irving Park, which council is hoping to add to the list of where sheltering overnight is banned in June.