Resident living near Topaz Park are gearing up to speak out against the City of Victoria’s proposed motion to create a temporary tent city during a walkabout at the park this week.
Last week, city council passed a motion 8-1 to consider setting up a designated tenting area for Victoria’s homeless population. Staff have identified Topaz Park as a suitable area.
Since the news broke last week, public outcry against the proposal has reached a fever pitch.
On Saturday, concerned residents gathered in the park to discuss the issue, and a Facebook page called Victoria Citizens Opposed to a Tent City already has more than 400 likes since it was created late last week.
Jeannette Allan recently bought a house on Glasglow Street, which overlooks the park.
“It’ll be next to a daycare, these are for people who have drug histories. There’s no way you can monitor just this confined area. It’s going to spread,” Allan said. “We’re concerned about our children’s safety and for anyone who is there who might step on a needle or something else unsanitary . . .This is a band-aid and not a humane way to go about a solution for the homeless people. It’s not a solution that’s going to solve anything.”
Allan said the city has not been transparent about the project and should consult residents and some of the city’s homeless population.
However, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps disagrees.
“The challenge is that we’ve been talking about this since April. It’s been on at least two or three council agendas, there’s been a map of proposed sites,” Helps said.
“It’s understandable that as soon as something gets a little bit concrete, that people are going to have a big reaction.”
Helps reinforced that Topaz Park is not a chosen site for the tent-city structure and could be taken off the table depending on the public input they receive from residents.
Coun. Ben Isitt said something must be done to help with the city’s homeless.
“I think the current situation in the parks, including Topaz Park, is unacceptable. We have people who don’t have access to proper sanitation, people are defecating in parks because they don’t have a washroom facility that’s open,” said Isitt. “I hope that through an ongoing conversation with our residents we can build sufficient support to proceed with a pilot project.”
Coun. Geoff Young voted against the motion, adding they’ve had similar projects in the past.
“We have seen tent cities before in the city and they invariably produce enormous problems within the encampment itself and also the surrounding neighbourhood. I don’t believe they’ll provide any real solution to the problems of homelessness and mental health and addictions on our streets,” he said.
Residents will have the chance to voice their concerns to mayor and councillors during a walkabout this Thursday (July 30) at the park.