An open letter is urging the province find ways to house people who are experiencing homelessness. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

Experts, advocates urge province to provide more housing as second wave of COVID-19 looms

‘We need to stop chasing people who are homeless from one encampment to another’

As a potential second wave of COVID-19 looms, experts are calling on the province to release a plan this June on how to find permanent homes for all unhoused residents of B.C.

An open letter addressed to a number of officials in the provincial government is asking for more housing options for everyone who needs it as “current efforts only offer accommodation to a small proportion of people who are homeless.”

While some 2,700 units have been acquired across the province, the letter underlines that a variety of approaches and housing options will be needed, adding that the number of people experiencing homelessness is “likely double” than the 8,000 estimate.

“Some people will want to move to hotels quickly, and others will not. Moving to hotels must be voluntary, free from any perception or potential for coercion,” reads the letter. Pointing to the Homeless Encampment Protocol issued by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, which makes it clear that “while housing options are being mobilized, encampments should not be displaced.”

READ ALSO: Petition demands Victoria ‘save Beacon Hill Park’

“In Victoria, we have had five major encampments in five years: Super InTent City, Namegans, Pandora, Topaz, and Beacon Hill. We need to stop chasing people who are homeless from one encampment to another. We need an actual plan to end homelessness in B.C.,” said Nicole Chaland, a Victoria-based housing advocate.

The province recently purchased two hotels on the Island and while advocates say this is a good step, that action on a much broader scale is still urgently needed.

Housing for all must be a central part of preparatory public health measures throughout the pandemic states the letter, adding that group settings such as shelters or hotels “cannot adequately provide the space and support staff needed for physical distancing and regular hand washing.”

READ ALSO: Motion to consider alternative responses to policing social issues coming to Victoria council

The letter lays out a number of actions for the province to take such as unionizing housing support workers, cancelling rent debt that has been incurred as a result of lost income, along with suspending rent for the remainder of the state of emergency.

Another recommendation laid out by the letter is to focus economic recovery stimulus spending on building a “robust non-market housing system” that would see within six to 12 months, permanent housing provided with health and social care as needed to everyone in the province experiencing homelessness. This would be done “by converting hotels, motels, apartments, office buildings and any other appropriate properties into non-market housing,” along with “building permanent, high-quality, energy-efficient homes affordable to people who live on income support and minimum wage jobs.”

The letter has been signed by Victoria Coun. Sarah Potts, Coun. Sharmarke Dunbow and Coun. Ben Isitt, along with a number of organizations and individuals.

To view the full letter visit tinyurl.com/endhomelessnessbc.


 

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

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

CRD explores option to use Oak Bay Lodge for people who are homeless

Motion asks staff to work with BC Housing, Island Health on possibilities

Public tips lead to arrest in alleged random assault on Victoria bus

June 19 incident was recorded by onboard camera

Woman who talked to unconscious husband, a Victoria police officer, for 30 years focus of study

Ian Jordan suffered a head injury when he and another officer were on their way to a call in Victoria in September 1987

B.C. residents can go to the Royal BC Museum for half price all summer

Museum reopening in phases, COVID-19 measures in place

Sidney asking tourists to respect health guidelines

Messaging says Sidney is ‘excited to welcome smart, safe, and respectful visits’

VIDEO: Victoria’s Raging Grannies call for end to public funding of for-profit senior homes

Organizer says COVID-19 has made senior home issues more apparent

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 7

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

POLL: Would you get a vaccine for COVID-19 when it is available?

With the number of positive COVID-19 tests skyrocketing across much of the… Continue reading

Campaign aims to raise $50K for young family of deceased Vancouver Island skydiver

James Smith, 34, died July 5 following incident in Nanoose Bay

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

B.C. ports part of data integration project to protect marine ecosystems

The $1.2 M federally funded program will draw crucial baseline data from Canada’s three coastlines

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

Most Read