Victoria and the province should work towards establishing a single site where the city’s homeless population can camp, says a city councillor.
Coun. Ben Isitt said the city should pursue a model similar to the one at View Royal run by Our Place Society, where the former Victoria Youth Custody Centre has been turned into temporary housing for the homeless.
At the shelter, residents have the option of sleeping outdoors in tents or inside the facility, and are given access to meals and counselling services.
“I think we have to pursue alternatives to dispersing homeless people back into the city’s park system. One or several locations with proper management is definitely preferable to dispersing people back into the parks,” said Isitt, adding the proper long-term solution to ending homelessness in the region is housing.
“I think that’s an option that hasn’t been properly explored.”
Dozens of homeless people are currently living on the lawns of the Victoria courthouse. Recently, a judge denied the province’s injunction to evict the campers from the premise. It is set to go to trial Sept. 7.
Should residents of tent city be forced to leave, Isitt is hoping similar alternatives, such as a single site shelter at View Royal, can be put in place to decrease the number of people taking shelter in city parks.
He speculated vacant industrial sites north of the downtown core would serve as potential sites. It would also need to be properly managed through an agency with expertise in dealing with the hard-to-house population to introduce rules and regulations to ensure the safety of the people living there, while mitigating the impacts on neighbours living near the site.
“I would prefer us not to engage in finger pointing and to work together to manage the impacts of homelessness to the greatest extent possible, at the same time that we build housing to eliminate homelessness,” Isitt said.
He would like to see the city take a proactive role, however, admitted the idea might not get support from council to take a leadership role, which means the responsibility would fall with the province.