Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps has decided to change up the city’s plan for temporary shelter sites for the homeless population in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her daily update on March 26, Helps said in order to maximize efficiency and get sites up and running as quickly as possible the city would be focusing on two, not three, temporary sites — Topaz Park and Royal Athletic Park.
“So we won’t be sheltering people at Beacon Hill Park,” she said.
She added that Island Health was able to secure 30 beds for people without homes who need to self-isolate.
The city has also been able to sequester 35 hotel rooms for a period of one month, which will be reviewed at the end of the month. Emergency Management British Columbia will be paying for the rooms, not city taxpayers.
“Just to clarify the people going to stay in these hotel rooms are healthy, they’re not symptomatic they are just people who are experiencing homelessness at this time,” she said.
News from the province:
Helps recounted a number of orders made earlier in the day by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth in regards to the Emergency Program Act. The Minister has established a new provincial supply chain to coordinate goods and services that need to be distributed. He also banned the reselling of essential goods such as food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning and other essential supplies, along with restricting the number of items allowed to be purchased at point of sale.
She also said that as of March 26, municipal bylaw officers would begin enforcing the orders from Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, in regards to social distancing, business closures and public gatherings. Helps added the city would look at potentially hiring more bylaw officers to help with the enforcement.
Farnworth also made it official that the province can requisition any facility it needs to support services for vulnerable people such as food banks and shelters.
News from the city:
City staff will be bringing forward bylaw amendments to wave penalties for the late payment of utility fees.
“That seems like a very small thing,” said Helps. “But at this point in time, every dollar we can keep in people’s pockets matters.”
Helps said that the city was hearing from local businesses who were unable to pay their rent, with little to no flexibility from their landlords. “So as of today, we’re going to be calling on the province for rent relief measures and ban on evictions for small businesses and non-profits during the provincial state of emergency,” she said.
The city also launched a program called Boxes of Hope on March 26, which was created by a number of Victoria restaurants, the Jawl Family Foundation, the Downtown Victoria Business Association and The Coalition to End Homelessness.
“For every $10 donated, we’ll be providing a warm healthy meal to someone in the community who needs it and supporting the local restaurant community and helping to keep their restaurant staff deployed,” she said. “Please nourish Victoria one meal at a time.”
To donate visit victoriahomelessness.ca/boxesofhope