Topaz Park saw some of its final touches Thursday morning as a makeshift shelter for Victoria’s homeless population during COVID-19.
The last of the tents were installed, bringing the total to 100, and showers were open for the first time since the camp opened two weeks ago. Still on the waiting list, however, are additional porta-potties and more staff and volunteers to run the camp.
“We’re kind of working frantically, we’re trying to get this up and going,” said site manager Don Evans. “It’s really difficult to find staff now since all the agencies are short shelter workers.”
The camp is running thin so they will now cast out a wider net to look for staff and volunteers to help run the camp – something necessary to keep things in line with COVID-19 social distancing and safety standards.
“It’s not the easiest when you’re outdoors, dealing with elements of weather and trying to stay dry,” Evans said. “Now we need to convince occupants to continue to wash their hands and not gather in groups.”
Evans added that months or years of living on the street will form bad hygiene habits that are hard to break, and will require supervision.
The ultimate goal, he said, is to get people indoors.
B.C. Housing, Island Health and the City of Victoria are currently prioritizing getting people off of Pandora Avenue and into single-occupancy rooms – a living situation where social distancing will be much more manageable. After those people are sheltered, Topaz Park occupants will also be shifted indoors.
“Some units are ready, some they still need to staff,” Evans said. “They’re constantly looking looking at new units, but every time they find a new unit they need unit staff.”
At the end of the day that means no timeline is defined for when people will leave Topaz Park and only identified the need for more hands to help.
Evans said all varieties of volunteers are need; from front line social workers, to people who have experience with customer service or graphic design.
“There’s tonnes of work to do,” he said. “When you’re trying to put this together quickly it needs a lot of volunteers. Many hands means light work.”
Anyone interested in volunteering at Topaz Park can contact Evans directly (“we still need a volunteer coordinator”) at firstname.lastname@example.org.