Finding used syringes, discarded food and other garbage in front of their Trounce Alley businesses was the last straw for Katerina Ulasovska and Sabine Colin.
In business in the old city quarter since last December, the pair say they put up with garbage strewn throughout the area and homeless people camped out in fron of their businesses for more than nine months.
“How are we supposed to do business and how are we supposed to attract customers and tourists in such conditions? asks Ulasovska, owner of Domani Fashion Chic.
Colin, who operates Delicos de France and has lived in Calgary and Quebec City, has never seen anything like it.
“I’m very uncomfortable,” she said.
“Quebec City is very similar (to Victoria), small town, lots of tourists and I’ve never seen this in Quebec City. It’s very clean there. There is no homeless anywhere. It’s very different.”
Mayor Dean Fortin said city council has worked hard to limit the amount of people homeless in Victoria, and is surprised by the drug use in Trounce Alley.
He admits there are other areas of the city where drug use occurs, butt very little seems to occur in Trounce Alley area.
“Regrettably, it can happen,” he said. “We can’t ignore the issue and there is always more we need to do.”
Ida Chong, who’s running against Fortin in this fall’s civic election, said some parts of the downtown have an unwelcoming atmosphere.
“It’s not a problem that has happened overnight,” she said in an interview. “It’s an issue that hasn’t been properly addressed by the mayor.”
Both politicians say they will visit the Trounce Alley area to see the problems for themselves.
“We could take a look at what other cities are doing and find solutions that way. I plan to listen to people and act,” Chong said.
For Ulasovska and Colin, they just want answers to a continuing problem.
“I’m not going to dive into the social issues,” Ulasovska said. My business is to come and provide a service and sell. To come to work and have this garbage in front of your doors is unbelievable.”