Residents fed up with new tent city

Neighbours living next to a growing homeless camp are fed up dealing with thefts, dirty needles and damage to their property.

Neighbours living next to a growing homeless camp that’s blossomed outside the Victoria courthouse are fed up dealing with thefts, dirty needles and damage to their property.

For the past 17 years, Don Allen has lived in his Fairfield apartment across the street from the courthouse on Burdett Avenue. The last six months he describes as horrifying.

According to Allen, usually four to five tents are set up in the green space at any given time, but that number has now grown to about 20 in the last few weeks and so has crime in the surrounding neighbourhood.

Working as the building manager, Allen sees and hears it all.

The back of the apartment building was recently broken into with three bikes stolen, and someone damaged his truck when they tried to break inside. On another occasion, a man was home reading the newspaper when he heard someone outside cutting his window screen.

Yelling and screaming is also a common occurrence during the evening hours and neighbours often find themselves picking up used needles on their property. One person found a needle in their vehicle tire, resulting in a flat.

So far Allen has had to install window bars inside a couple suites and received two notices from tenants wanting to move elsewhere.

“They’ve had enough. It’s unreal. It’s just non stop,” said Allen. “We used to go away every weekend to our trailer up Island, but now we’re scared to leave. They are always looking in our windows. They come around at night.”

Allen sees police at the camp on a regular basis and has reported the problems at his building. But according to the city and police, the green space is owned by the province, therefore it’s considered private property and city bylaws don’t apply.

The City of Victoria has a bylaw that states people can only shelter in a park between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., but since the property is owned by the province, police can’t remove the campers without a request.

“If there was an assault in the park, we would attend and deal with it just like any other private property. But specifically regarding the tenting and them staying there, it’s the property owner that would be the one to place a complaint with us,” said Victoria police spokesperson Const. Matt Rutherford, adding police do monitor the space.

“If they (area residents) are a victim of crime or they see any offence happening, give us a call.”

With no police forcing campers to pack up and leave every morning, the green space is becoming popular among the homeless community. On Tuesday morning, more than 20 tents were set up along the tree line. Steven L’heureux is among the people staying there.

L’heureux is currently waiting for housing and sleeps in a number of parks throughout the city. He said the campers recently held a meeting to lay down some rules such as cleaning up, no fighting, yelling or screaming so they don’t disturb neighbours.

“If there’s anybody that’s going to cause any trouble, the whole group is going to band together and say move on, get out,” L’heureux said.

The city has been made aware of the issue, with councillors responding to concerns from frustrated citizens. Officials have asked the province to deal with the matter.

When asked what the province plans to do, a B.C. government spokesperson responded to the Victoria News in a written statement, saying:

“The B.C. Government recognizes the importance of keeping the Victoria courthouse property clear and ensuring safe access by the public. We continue to work closely with the Victoria Police Department and the City of Victoria to find a long-term solution.”

Mel Wright lives in a condo near the courthouse and has talked with sheriffs, commissionaires and police about the campers outside, only to be left feeling like there is a lack of interest in finding a solution.

If no action is taken soon, he fears the park could have as many as 40 to 50 tents, potentially resulting more problems for those who live nearby.

In the mean time, all Allen and Wright can do is wait for answers. But like many of his neighbours, Allen is now reaching the end of his rope.

“Every time there’s a few more tents, something happens,” he said. “Eventually somebody is going to get hurt. There is so many people pissed off they ain’t going to take much more.”

 

 

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

Just Posted

A video captured by Twitter user Teddy Jenner of a fire in Beacon Hill Park the night of Jan. 21, 2021. (Twitter/@OfftheCrosseBar)
Fire rips through tents, wooden structures in Beacon Hill Park

Emergency crews say there was no injuries in the blaze

(Black Press Media file photo)
Bylaw officers called to Saanich park for COVID-19 protocol violations on pickleball court

Raquet sport players reminded to avoid doubles play amid pandemic

Victoria police say a missing teen has been located safe. (Black Press Media file photo)
Missing teen located safe: Victoria police

Missing person alert ended for high-risk missing 14-year-old

There are many options for enjoying a meal out locally during Dine Around and Stay in Town, on now through Feb. 7. (10 Acres Commons)
Dine Around Stay in Town Victoria carries added importance during pandemic

Special menu items for eat in or takeout/delivery, staycation deals available through Feb. 7

Central Saanich installed a temporary portable along Lochside Trail near Michell’s Farm Market and remains in discussion with the Capital Regional District about finding what Mayor Ryan Windsor called a ‘permanent solution’ to ensuring washroom access at the popular location. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Central Saanich in talks with CRD about ‘permanent’ washroom facility near Lochside Trail

The municipality installed a temporary portable washroom near Michell’s Farm Market last week

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

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 Jan. 19

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

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Most Read