City removes showers, homeless structures from Victoria park
VICTORIA -- Dozens of police and Victoria bylaw officers moved into Beacon Hill Park Friday morning to remove unsanctioned showers and a community tent that had been used by the park’s homeless population.
In all, five structures were removed – two shower units, a large cistern and two large tents that comprised the community tent, according to city hall.
The showers were constructed and delivered to the park earlier this month by a community group called Showers for the Unhoused.
Homeless advocates in the park Friday said they were disappointed by the removal of the showers and community tent. They said they had been in talks with city officials about potentially moving the structures to a more suitable location.
Victoria Coun. Sarah Potts took to social media during the ordeal Friday, confirming she was in "active conversations" with homeless advocacy groups about the structures, and calling the removal of the showers and tent a "shameful act."
CTV News has reached out to Potts for further comment on the issue.
Victoria and Saanich police officers attended the scene to keep the peace while bylaw officers removed the structures and hauled them away in a truck.
"We understand the desire of individuals to want to assist people sheltering in the park, however we cannot allow structures without permits in parks, especially ones that are using gas generators and that pose fire risks, health and safety risks, and are damaging the environment," said city spokesperson Bill Eisenhauer.
City hall has had "many discussions over the past few weeks with the individuals operating these unauthorized structures," Eisenhauer said. "They have simply declined to work with us to find an alternative solution, leaving us no choice but to remove the structures today."
During the process, police say one woman was arrested for assaulting an officer. She was transported to VicPD cells and has since been released. The investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Eisenhauer said the city was not removing people sheltering in the park at this time. The structures that were removed will be stored until they are claimed by their owners, he added.
The homeless population in Beacon Hill and several other Victoria-area parks has exploded since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many indoor shelters were forced to close or limit their occupancy numbers.