Province won’t rush remaining tent city residents to move

Jaime Green will be able to rest easy from now on in a bed she can call her own.

Jaime Green will be able to rest easy from now on in a bed she can call her own.

Last Tuesday, Green and dozens of other residents from tent city moved from the lawns of the courthouse into supportive housing provided by the provincial government.

“So far it’s great. I’m so thankful to be inside and not looking at another winter outside,” said Green, noting it was bittersweet moving from tent city to the old Central Care Home building on Johnson Street. “I feel 100 times safer and more secure.”

Each resident received their own roughly 10-foot by 11-foot room, which comes with a sink and toilet. There are also shared showers and other facilities for residents to use.

Prior to that, Green and her boyfriend had been living at tent city on Burdett Avenue for the past nine months, along with more than 100 people who have called the provincially-owned land home since the fall.

However, the camp quickly began to attract attention for the wrong reasons. Neighbourhood residents reported needles, feces and garbage being left on their lawns, thefts increased and two people were assaulted near the site. The site also became a hotbed for illegal and gang activity. However, much of those problems decreased after Victoria police stepped up enforcement in May, designated officers in the areas surrounding and in tent city after a budget increase from the City of Victoria.

In July, Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson granted the province an injunction to remove the campers, after deeming it unsafe following a safety inspection by the Office of the Fire Commissioner.

Since the Monday, Aug. 8, deadline for residents to leave, most people have moved from the camp to various housing facilities the province has purchased.

“It’s been really great moving in and seeing some familiar faces also move in. There’s a little bit of camaraderie from tent city that is going to be carried over that way,” Green said, adding there won’t be as much stress as there was in tent city where people were constantly arguing over how much land they needed.

“Now we get to kick back and get to know people as people, instead of homeless people.”

According to the province, 275 people have moved into the facilities, including more than 70 at the former Central Care Home in the past week. However, some tents and people remain.

“We have seen very good cooperation from the campers. So there’s no need to go for any type of enforcement order at this point,” said Housing Minister Rich Coleman. “While we’re respectful of the court’s deadline, we recognize that it would be a mistake to rush this move because it’s going so well. We’re going to continue to work with those who are cooperative.”

Residents in neighbourhoods surrounding the courthouse are also resting easier since the majority of campers have packed up and left.

Stephen Hammond, who lives a few blocks away from the camp, said the area already feels safer. They’re just worried the province is pushing the problem into another area, with potential plans to open more beds at the Mount Edwards facility.

“Our concern is that they’ll just be moving tent city a block away,” Hammond said. “Sure on the one hand tent city will be gone. What we hope is that there will be continued police presence in the hot spots and we want to get away from being a police hot spot. Who likes to live in a neighbourhood that needs to be patrolled all of the time?”

Green, who is an artist, is looking forward to unpacking her things in storage, setting up her artwork in her room and creating art again. While the province has done a sufficient job at providing housing for tent city residents, more still needs to be done, she added.

“(The province) has done a great job. It looks like there’s sufficient room in the new building for everyone at tent city and then some,” Green said. “There’s still 1,000 people out there on the street after everything the ministry has done this year. The problem is still quite large, it’s still a huge issue. It’s not done.”