VICTORIA -- Staff at a local appliance business are raising the alarm as a homeless encampment grows against the wall of the store.

When management at West Coast Appliance Gallery arrived Monday they found a few plastic containers at the side of the building. Within an hour of opening, the Nanaimo Street business had a tent attached to the building, and before noon there was a couch blocking the sidewalk.

“We contacted police, they came by and had a conversation with the people,” said West Coast Appliance president and managing partner Byron Loucks. “Bylaw came by Tuesday and the tent was removed, but none of the contents were removed.”

Managers of the appliance store say that since the tent arrived Monday, customers and staff have been harassed and threatened by the people living next to the building.

“It’s a daily frustration of finding people attaching themselves to your business, blocking sidewalks and people just not feeling safe,” said Loucks. “It’s one tent yesterday and now it is so much more and when is it going to stop?”

Loucks says though he has seen an increase in petty crime since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he does not connect the rise in crime to homeless people being sheltered in the former Comfort Inn.

“I understand the government is trying to provide housing because there is a serious need for housing, but I think programs need to take place to help these people,” said Loucks. “They are going in the right direction, but they need to take those last few steps.”

Staff at the store have called the City of Victoria bylaw department to ask for help to remove the sidewalk encampment. Loucks says city bylaw officers have yet to call staff back with advice on how to resolve the issue.

“We’re feeling frustration with the situation, frustration with the lack of communication and frustration for these poor people who need something and they aren’t getting what they need,” said Loucks. “We want to help, but what we don’t want is people putting tents on the side of our building because that isn’t helping anyone. We didn’t create the issue. We’re hoping to help the issue, but we didn’t create the issue.”

Managers of the appliance store say as long as people continue to occupy the sidewalk next to the building they will take steps to keep customers and staff safe. They are advising people to avoid that section of the sidewalk and are offering to walk customers to and from their cars.