Anthony, along with other members of the unhoused community, runs a drying tent in Beacon Hill Park. The tent was set up in order to provide a safe, dry place for people who are living outside. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Anthony, along with other members of the unhoused community, runs a drying tent in Beacon Hill Park. The tent was set up in order to provide a safe, dry place for people who are living outside. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Beacon Hill Park’s unhoused install community tent as Victoria weather turns wet

Organizers say dry, safe place needed to replace unavailable shelter space

The creators of a drying station in Beacon Hill Park say they are providing a badly-needed service for people who currently call the park home.

The space, labeled a ‘community care tent’ is full of donated items such as coats, tarps, sleeping bags and snacks. A white board contains a list of needed items and several camping chairs encircle a table covered in thermoses, sugar cubes and creamers.

All the items were donated in the first 48 hours after the tent was set up, and the donations keep arriving.

Fairfield resident David Biltek said he saw a post about the community tent on Facebook.

“People need something and this was easy for me to do,” he said.

“I think that city council is doing the best they can. But quite frankly I think it’s a bit mismanaged and a bit disorganized. … In the economic situation we have, we’re likely going to see more people become homeless.”

READ ALSO: Couple evicted from Victoria hotel face homelessness themselves

The group members that initiated the community tent live in Beacon Hill Park. They say that with reduced capacity inside the city’s shelters and a lack of coordinated relief effort, people in the parks are having to step up to provide relief during the winter months.

Currently, the city’s sheltering bylaw prohibits open flame appliances and requires a permit for electricity.

Grant McKenzie, communications director for Our Place Society, said people are doing what they have to do to survive.

“The bottom line is, there’s not enough shelter space for people,” he said. “Even though we’ve moved hundreds of people indoors, there’s still not enough.”

Looking out from the Pandora Avenue centre, McKenzie can see people huddling under awnings and beneath trees, trying to stay warm during the first November rainfall.

READ ALSO: Victoria council adopts bylaw restricting placement, size of tents

He notes that for people with underlying health conditions, exposure to wet and cold conditions can be particularly harmful, and even dangerous as the threat of COVID-19 looms over the unhoused community.

“I think they’re doing what’s necessary, they’re doing what is needed for survival,” he said. “At the moment there are very few alternatives. People need to stay warm and dry.”

Our Place recently announced it was leasing Cool Aid Society’s facility at 755 Pandora Ave. for use as a temporary night shelter. The shelter opened Nov. 1, providing sleeping space for 20 people each night.

Our Place also operates a 34-space night shelter in the First Metropolitan Church. But reduced capacity to comply with COVID-19 protocols still leaves some people out in the cold.

“Pre-COVID we would have 60 mats in there,” McKenzie said. “And the downtown community centre would have had 40. We have to have everybody two metres apart, that’s really cut down the space available.”

McKenzie said there is a waiting list almost every night, but he also has concerns during the daytime. Usually, a cold and rainy Victoria day would draw hundreds inside the shelter on Pandora Avenue. Now the facility is limited to 40 people.

In April, during a Facebook Live address, Mayor Lisa Helps said a rapid plan with BC Housing was underway to get people housed – at that time, 360 people were living outside.

Since then, more than 100 people have moved to indoor temporary shelters, but an estimate in the Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness report indicates that in July, 1,523 people were without homes.

The City of Victoria continues to work with BC Housing and the Capital Regional District which announced Monday that it was seeking land for the Government of Canada’s Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI).

The CRD received $13.1 million through RHI to help house people experiencing homelessness in the region.

READ ALSO: One in two homeless people have suffered a traumatic brain injury: UBC study


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: nina.grossman@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CommunityHomelessHomelessnessHousing and HomelessnessVictoria

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The public will start to weigh in next month on the possible future uses of Oak Bay Lodge. In the meantime, a request to the province by the City of Victoria to intervene and allow use of at least a portion of the closed facility as temporary shelter space awaits an answer. (Black Press Media file photo)
Oak Bay Lodge redevelopment planning continues, request for temporary use awaits answer

Public consultation on future of CRD-owned site begins next month

Volunteer Anette Akouri is part of a vital service that connects clients to help them be less vulernable. (Saanich Volunteer Services Society)
Saanich volunteers up the friendship calls, grocery deliveries during pandemic

Saanich Volunteer Services Society helping vulnerable residents stay happy, healthy

A rendering of Victoria Wonderland, a drive-thru immersive holiday experience that has been cancelled due to COVID-19. (Courtesy of Transcend Victoria)
Victoria Wonderland drive-thru show cancelled due to COVID-19

Organizers hope to host a similar event, if restrictions allow, in the new year

Swiftsure International Yacht Race 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Popular Swiftsure yacht race cancelled for second consecutive year

International sailing race hopes to run its 77th event in 2022

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

(AP Photo/Paula Bronstein)
POLL: Has COVID-19 changed your plans for the holidays?

The lights are going up, the stacks of presents under the tree… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 1

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

Watch Messiah at home with the Sooke Philharmonic

Concert available to stream Dec. 12

Emergency crews used a backhoe loader to clear fire debris from the scene of a fire on Wesley Street Thursday as police and firefighters gathered up propane tanks, stoves and fireplaces used by camp residents to heat tents. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo dismantles downtown homeless encampment after fire

Four to six tents burned up in Wesley Street fire Thursday, Dec. 3

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

BC Ambulance Services reassures people that the service is well staffed and ready to respond. Photo by Don Bodger
BC Ambulance assures the Island community they’re ‘fully staffed’

‘Paramedics are not limited to a geographical area.’ — BCEHS

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read