VICTORIA -- All homeless campers staying at Topaz Park and along Pandora Avenue in Victoria are expected to be moved into indoor sheltering by the end of Wednesday, according to Shane Simpson, B.C. Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

The provincial government first announced that all campers at the two locations in Victoria and at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park would be moved into indoor sheltering on April 25.

Now, approximately 360 people who were camped at Topaz Park and Pandora Avenue are expected to be moved into sheltering Wednesday.

“It is our expectation and hope that we will have moved all of the people by end of day and we will be able to move forward with the completion of the closure of those sites,” said Simpson in a live announcement Wednesday.

People staying at the shelters will have access to wraparound supports, including addictions and harm reduction services, health care, daily meals and access to hygiene resources.

Staff at the shelters, located in local hotels, motels and Victoria’s Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, will be providing the services.

Simpson says that all health-care related services will be provided by trained staff from outreach groups or Island Health. Meanwhile, some staff that operated these facilities before they were transitioned into homeless shelters will continue to provide maintenance service and other work.

While hundreds of people have been moved indoors, some homeless campers remain outside of shelters in Victoria.

“There are a small number of people who simply said that they do not want to come inside,” said Simpson.

“That’s their choice, we’re not forcing anyone into housing. We continue to be available if they change their mind later today.”

Simpson says that the province is continuing to provide outreach and information for people who have declined housing. Meanwhile, anyone who was camping at Topaz Park or along Pandora Avenue who has refused housing has been asked to leave the camping locations.

“We are telling them that they do need to leave the site and our expectation is that that will occur,” he said.

The provincial government says that it is now focusing on completing the transition and stabilizing the situation.

Simpson says that announcements regarding future housing options will likely come several weeks from now. 

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she was grateful for the province’s efforts to address homelessness amid the pandemic.

“It’s remarkable to see 308 people move inside into temporary sheltering locations in such a short time,” she said in a statement.

“We also thank the Province for their commitment to ensure that no one ends up back on the street.”