The City of Victoria is moving forward with plans to address the issue of homelessness in the city, which could include creating micro-housing and temporary shelters.
The Action Plan for Housing Supports and City Services for Sheltering in City Parks is part of a staff report put forward to council to address the lack of adequate housing opportunities for homeless people in Victoria, which has resulted in many of them taking shelter in city parks.
“These sheltering activities are having a number of impacts on city parks and resources, and the community,” according to the report.
As a solution, the comprehensive plan includes seeking funding to open 40 adult emergency mats between May and October, when they are generally closed; and establishing specific park locations where individuals can temporarily set up shelter at night.
The most popular initiative was the possibility of setting up micro-housing for roughly 35 to 50 individuals. The site would provide a variety of sleeping facilities including semi-permanent wooden structures, Conestoga huts or tents, on a site roughly one acre in size.
Potential sites for alternative shelter models include Topaz, Banfield and Stadacona parks.
On Thursday, council voted 6-1 in favour of the report.
“The fact that we're having this conversation, means that something's not working,” said Mayor Lisa Helps, noting that more people are using shelters in 2014 than in 2010. “We've been throwing millions of dollars, not we as a city, as a society and things are getting worse not better.”
“This is a First World country, we live in a capital city and there is absolutely no reason why our parks should be used in the way they are by people who are in desperate need of housing . . . This is heartbreaking, but it's necessary.”
It was Coun. Jeremy Loveday who put forward the motion during the meeting.
“We've committed to building a healthy and inclusive city and that means for everyone and that means for people without homes,” said Loveday. “The time for raising awareness is over, it's time for us to raise roofs and to really work together.”
The only councillor to oppose the motion was Geoff Young.
“There are some significant elements of the report that I do not support and rather than making amendments, which I sense are not going to be met with support from my colleagues, I'll end up not being supportive of the motion as a whole,” he said.
An additional operating funding of up to $350,000 from 2015 contingencies will be used to support specific plan initiatives. However, the costs of establishing micro-housing is not included in the funding.
There is no timeline set for the projects.