‘We’re done waiting’: Victoria looks at short-term housing solutions that province will not


Sheltering in parks is reaching a breaking point. That’s what one Victoria city councillor said, who pushed at the most recent council meeting during a debate on restricting 24-hour sheltering in parks, to step up where the province and federal governments are not.

“By ignoring the need for interim housing solutions they’re ignoring their responsibility to the people that are sleeping outside, every night, sleeping rough in our community, and we’re done,” said Krista Loughton, a Victoria city councillor to CHEK News.

BC Housing told CHEK News Wednesday they “do not consider them to be a solution for long-term, purpose-built supportive housing”.

Instead, they pointed to six supportive housing projects in the CRD where construction is underway, with most being ready by the end of the year.

“We’re done waiting for solutions,” Loughton said in response. “It is out of our lane. It’s not our jurisdictional responsibility but somebody needs to do something.”

In Thursday’s council meeting, city representatives voted to restrict overnight sheltering from eight to five city parks with washrooms: Oaklands Park, Victoria West Park, Irving Park, Gonzales Park, and Pemberton Park.

Sept. 1, Topaz Park, Hollywood Park, and Regatta Park will no longer allow 24/7 sheltering in parks. As of November 1, Stadacona Park will no longer allow overnight sheltering.

“We want to house people or move them into a better sheltering situation. We wanted to put a time limit on that but we don’t want to displace people as we roll it out,” said Loughton, who says they want to avoid sweeps recently seen in Vancouver.

To help avoid sweeps, the city agreed to hire a parks relocation coordinator, who will work one-on-one with unhoused people living in those parks, and find market rentals or supportive housing.

City council also voted for staff to look at city land to put tiny villages using pallet shelters.

Also trying to find a solution was CJ Poole, who lives in Oaklands Park and had been working on a solar-powered cart prototype for himself to call home, but also other unhoused people.

“It could be mobile in 20 minutes but they didn’t even warn him or give him that time to pack it up and to be able to move it,” said Nancy Tutube, Poole’s best friend and partner.

Friday morning, Poole’s prototype was dismantled piece by piece, taken into impound by Victoria bylaw officers.

“Everybody that’s homeless was getting excited we’ve got these mobile homes coming out. We might actually have somewhere to live!” said Michael Andrew Reynolds, a volunteer with See Spring Wellness who is also unhoused.

In Thursday’s council meeting, the mayor reluctantly agreed to take on more responsibility that’s outside a municipality’s usual scope.

“I’m comfortable with us, yet again, taking perhaps an unfair, but larger and more morale share of this responsibility, at least for now,” said Marianne Alto, Victoria’s Mayor.

Both Alto and Loughton are calling on the province and BC Housing to come back as partners, to treat short-term solutions for the city’s hardest-to-house with more urgency.

So people like Reynolds have a place off the street, out of parks, sooner.

“I wish people would just give us a spot,” said Reynolds.

An earlier version of this story said sheltering in Topaz Park, Hollywood Park, and Regatta Park will be not permitted as of August 1. The council motion was amended to be September 1, and the story has been corrected.

Kori Sidaway

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