Attendees of a mayoral candidates forum on how to solve homelessness in Greater Victoria packed the First Metropolitan Church, Tuesday. (Kristyn Anthony/News staff)

Homelessness experts challenge Greater Victoria candidates on finding a fix

‘People are dying every week on our streets, and it’s not just the opioid crisis,’ Our Place executive director tells crowd of hundreds

A panel of local experts flipped the script on the region’s mayoral candidates Tuesday taking centre stage to share their ideas on how to solve the growing issue of poverty and homelessness in the Capital Region.

The event, “Solving homelessness with our region’s mayoral candidates” was hosted by Our Place Society and attended by hundreds of people who filled the First Metropolitan Church in Victoria.

Impassioned pleas from those in attendance challenged candidates on how they would take immediate action to house the more than 1,500 people experiencing homelessness in Greater Victoria.

Panelist Don Evans, executive director of Our Place, urged the candidates to work together immediately to build 40 to 50 temporary units of housing so people can “stabilize” and start to think about more long term options.

“People are dying every week on our streets,” Evans said, “and it’s not just the opioid crisis.”

People with mental health issues, brain trauma, financial struggles, health concerns, are “forced to be outside” where they “live in survival mode,” Evans said.

RELATED: Advance voting begins Oct. 10 in Greater Victoria

“All they need is some sort of adequate, affordable housing,” he said, before challenging municipalities to purchase land for modular housing. “The money is there. The missing link is the municipalities.”

Panelist Terry Willis, who is battling stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma and has been homeless for two years after losing his wife to cancer, asked candidates how they intend to help those in a situation similar to his.

“Unfortunately our system is a little flawed when it comes to people that get a disease that keeps them from continuing their life, working and raising their children and paying the rent,” Willis said.

RELATED: Victoria cancer patient denied chemo due to condition of homeless shelter

Representatives from Esquimalt, North Saanich, Saanich, Sidney, Victoria and View Royal answered questions from both the panelists and the public.

Tensions ran high when one attendee pointedly asked Saanich mayor Richard Atwell and Victoria candidate Stephen Hammond where residents of Camp Namegans, a homeless camp that has been forcibly removed from multiple sites in the region, will sleep after the Oct. 12 deadline at their current location.

There are parks where people are welcome to sleep overnight, Atwell said before being asked how the municipality would approach those who cannot or will not leave by the required 9 a.m. time limit.

“With the assistance of police,” Atwell said, to a crowd shouting “shame.”

RELATED: Saanich’s homeless camp ends, as residents plan rally Friday

Catherine Holt, CEO of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce told candidates the average person cannot afford the average house in Victoria anymore.

“Real estate is not housing,” she said, stressing creative solutions are a vital response to housing people, pointing to a recent bylaw in Portland, Oregon allowing for tiny homes on properties within the city.

Evans busted the myth that those experiencing homelessness want to stay near the downtown core, calling on candidates in North Saanich, Sidney and the West Shore to recognize this is a regional problem.

Mayor David Screech agreed calling the current state of affairs a symptom of “years of neglect” on the part of all 13 municipalities, before adding: “We need shelters on the West Shore.”


@kristyn_anthony
kristyn.anthony@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

More wind storms to hit Vancouver Island, expected to taper off for Christmas Day

Another special weather statement in effect for evening of Dec. 19

Courtesy parking tickets invite Victoria to pay it forward

Christmas program to cut drivers a break in the city has run for more than two decades

Councillor criticizes board overseeing wastewater treatment project

Coun. Judy Brownoff accuses project board of ignoring public input

Catch last call and a cheap ride home: Late night buses coming to Victoria in 2019

New plan will extend service on weekends with last trip leaving downtown at 3 a.m.

West Shore RCMP investigating after parking lot carjacking in Langford

Man was thrown from his vehicle near Millstream Road McDonald’s Monday night

Santa visits some of Victoria General Hospital’s littlest patients

Santa flew in to the hospital via air ambulance helicopter

READER POLL: Do you have turkey or ham for Christmas dinner?

What are you having for Christmas dinner? Canadians gobbled up 3.3 million… Continue reading

‘Laverne & Shirley’ star, ‘Big’ director Penny Marshall dies

Marshall died of complications from diabetes on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, at her Hollywood Hills home. She was 75.

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 18, 2018

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. Court of Appeal to rule in terror case that centres on RCMP conduct

B.C.’s appeal court is scheduled to release a decision today on a couple whose guilty verdict over plotting to blow up the provincial legislature was thrown out by a lower court judge.

Trump backs off on demand for $5 billion to build a border wall

Congress and President Donald Trump continue to bicker over his demand that lawmakers fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Canadian detained in China, not clear if related to two other detentions

Reports suggest the person is not a diplomat or entrepreneur doing business in China.

Trudeau sees 2019 election as choice between positive Liberals, divisive Tories

Trudeau is drawing much the same battle lines that propelled the Liberals to a come-from-behind victory in 2015

Snowfall warning issued for Coquihalla, Highway 3

Make sure to equip winter tires if travelling

Most Read