The tent city homeless camp sprung up on the Victoria Law Courts back lawn partly in protest to the lack of housing options available here. While many units have opened up since tent city shut down, some people are back sleeping in city parks. Victoria News files

EDITORIAL : Victoria parks camping rules need to be enforced

Public parks not there for free tourist accommodation

Camping in a provincial park is a right we still have in B.C., as do others elsewhere in the world.

But when it comes to sleeping in city parks, should the same rules apply?

Camping in Victoria city parks was declared legal several years back when it was determined that not enough housing or shelter beds was available for people who were homeless or at risk of being so. It came with the provision that people could set up camps in the parks between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. then have to clear out during the day to allow for the unencumbered enjoyment by other members of the public.

Victoria council recently heard that this year more people have been found camping in city parks. Some campers are the same people who have been sleeping in the parks for years, including some who have chosen not to move into the multi-unit housing models created to address local homelessness. Others are newcomers – some might even call them “tourists” – who may not be aware of the city’s parks camping time regulations.

Our moderate climate definitely lends itself well to camping in city parks, but do we really want to turn this into a growth industry, especially when so much has been done to put a roof over the heads of people in need?

We don’t think so and as such, believe it’s important for the City of Victoria to send a clear message that the rules are not about to be relaxed.

We don’t envy city bylaw officials whose job it is to convey that message. We applaud them for working with B.C. Housing and other service providers to help guide local people in need to the right places to be able to survey their housing options. Sensitivity in working with those who may have mental health or addictions challenges is important, but so is firmness.

As for those who may have heard Victoria’s parks are a great place to sleep for free when visiting the city, the no vacancy sign needs to go up as soon as possible.