Communities want more options for homeless

Some residents feel there are many unanswered questions about the next steps to house the city's homeless.

After immense backlash against the City of Victoria’s proposed plan to set up a tent city in Topaz Park this summer, some residents feel there are many unanswered questions about the next steps to house the city’s homeless.

At a recent Quadra Village Community Centre meeting, executive director Kelly Greenwell said residents drafted a number of questions they hope city council will consider during the sheltering solutions workshop on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

“Clearly there needs to be some positive solutions for homelessness but we’re very concerned that it’s going into a park, that that’s being considered,” Greenwell said.

“We’re still concerned, there hasn’t been anything in writing that said this option (Topaz Park) is off the table. Until we do, I think everybody is a bit worried this could be considered one of the last resort options.”

The residents’ list of questions include to what degree have other options been explored, what are some of the services that would be associated with this type of proposal and how will homeless people be supported to have an opportunity to get off the streets?

In July, city council passed a motion 8-1 to consider setting up a designated tenting area for Victoria’s homeless population. Staff identified Topaz Park as a suitable area.

However, there was immense backlash to the proposal with hundreds of residents showing up to voice their concerns at a public forum at the park. The city has since back pedalled on the issue with Mayor Lisa Helps issuing an apology for how the plan was rolled out.

Helps has said the proposal is “on pause,” promising more public consultation in the form of a sheltering workshop.

During the upcoming workshop, Greenwell expects a number of residents will push the city to explore other options to house the city’s homeless.

“I think it’s hard when you live in the neighbourhood that’s the testing ground of the idea. Maybe people assume you don’t care about the issue, but they do care about the issue,” Greenwell said. “We want people to know, we want a solution to happen that’s positive and we don’t think it should be in a public park space like this.”

The sheltering solutions workshop takes place from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Crystal Garden (713 Douglas St.)