Victoria mayor advocates finding shelter for people during COVID-19 pandemic

Helps says she ‘[doesn’t] care how people get inside’ as long as they can follow provincial orders

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps has sent a letter to the province on behalf of council asking that emergency powers are used to requisition hotel and motel rooms for those without shelter in the region. (City of Victoria/Facebook)

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps has sent a letter to the province on behalf of council asking that emergency powers are used to requisition hotel and motel rooms for those without shelter in the region. (City of Victoria/Facebook)

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she doesn’t care how people get inside, but that people should be able to find shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to comply with the provincial health officer’s physical distancing and isolation orders.

In a briefing on Friday, April 17, Helps said BC Housing is slowly moving people into existing hotel rooms and that the effort is being coordinated by BC Housing and Island Health. However, she noted they’ve only been able to secure 195 hotel and motel rooms, with between 300 to 400 people still outside and unsheltered.

Her statement came in response to questions regarding an announcement made about a council decision from Thursday stating that Helps, on behalf of council, has written a letter to the B.C. premier, solicitor general and ministers of housing, health and mental health and addictions requesting that the province use emergency powers under the Emergency Program Act to requisition hotel and motel rooms for all unhoused people in the Capital Region and provide the health, mental health and added support for those people moving in.

READ ALSO: Hotels might not be best option for Victoria’s homeless population

If the province is unwilling to do so, the City would request that the authority declare a local state of emergency to requisition hotel and motel rooms for unsheltered people in the City and work with BC Housing and Island Health to provide the units to people who are asymptomatic but at risk of contracting COVID-19.

In response to a question during the Friday briefing, Helps said the Hotel Association of Greater Victoria was not consulted in the decision to send the letter but that “normal chains of consultation sometimes fall to the wayside” during a medical emergency.

“I don’t care how people get inside … what matters is people can follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s orders,” Helps said.

Dr. Richard Stanwick, the chief medical health officer for Island Health, stressed the lack of shelter could be a problem for everyone, and Helps said the City has been taking direction from Stanwick since “day one.”

READ ALSO: B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

According to helps, Stanwick noted people living on the street are part of the general population and that an outbreak amongst the demographic would have an impact on frontline workers as well as put stress on the health care system.

Whether or not hotels and motels are requisitioned is be up to the province, Helps noted.

The decision to put people in hotels and motels as a first priority is coming from Stanwick’s advice, Helps said, because people would have private spaces and washrooms to stay isolated. The next option would be to house them in indoor congregate areas such as recreation and community centres which is not as ideal because of shared facilities.

About three weeks ago, the City of Victoria told the province and BC Housing to use whatever spaces they require for shelter purposes with the exception of facilities such as those that still have child care operating.

“We’ve offered up everything we have,” Helps said. “Any of our facilities are open to BC Housing to shelter people inside so we’ll leave it to BC Housing to determine what’s best.”

Black Press Media has reached out to Island Health for comment.

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

City of VictoriaCoronavirus

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

Just Posted

A report by investigator Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond found “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in a report released Monday.
Peninsula hospital one where ‘significant work underway’

Investigation finds ‘widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people’ in provincial health care

Victoria police issued tickets to two Victoria party hosts Saturday night, according to VicPD Chief Del Manak. (Unsplash)
Victoria partiers hid in closets, bedrooms in an attempt to avoid fines

Police gave out COVID-19 tickets to two separate parties

(Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
Second driver facing impaired charges after View Royal traffic stop leads to loaded firearms

West Shore RCMP stop swerving motorist and Saanich woman who came to pick her up

Sig
Highway 14 down to one-lane near Jordan River

Traffic on Highway 14, six kilometres east of Jordan River, is reduced… Continue reading

Classes are cancelled at Royal Bay Secondary School and other schools Nov. 30 due to power outages. (Black Press Media file photo)
Classes cancelled across the West Shore, Sooke due to power outages

Students can be picked up but facilities remain open

A bus shelter in White Rock is emblazoned with an ad from B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Black Press Media files)
VIDEO: ‘Am I racist?’ campaign asks British Columbians to confront their unconscious biases

Signs asking British Columbians to think about racial injustice have been put up across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Left to right: A screenshot of NTC nurse navigator Lesley Cerney, FNHA regional mental health manager Georjeana Paterson and Island Health’s medical health officer Dr. Charmaine Enns addressing Ehattesaht community members from Ehatis reserve in a Facebook live update. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Medical team sent to Ehatis reserve near Zeballos to guide community through COVID outbreak

17 cases, eight recoveries and no hospitalizations as Island Health praises First Nation’s response

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
B.C. man defends his family against intruder, saves neighbour while wielding hockey stick

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Harbour seals rest on log booms at Flavelle Mill in Port Hardy. With recent announcements the mill will be getting rid of the log booms, Dr. David Rosen sees an opportunity to study how the disappearance of this highly-frequented refuge for the seals will alter their behaviour in Burrard Inlet. (Photo supplied by David Rosen)
What the heck is going on with marine mamals in Vancouver waterways?

UBC researcher asks why they’re returning, and what role we’re playing

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009. (RCMP photo)
Human remains found off U.S. coast in 2009 identified as Penticton man

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009

Remains of the scene off Melrose Road in Whiskey Creek where three bodies were found on Nov. 1, 2020. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Probe continues into grisly mid-Island discovery of 3 human bodies, 4 dead dogs

Police still want to speak with motorist who picked up hitchhikers near scene on Nov. 1

Most Read