Dismantling of Victoria homeless camps underway as province implements hotel program
Published Sunday, April 26, 2020 4:25PM PDT
VANCOUVER -- The day after the B.C. government announced a sweeping plan to move people living in tent cities in Vancouver and Victoria into hotel rooms during the COVID-19 pandemic, signs of the change were already visible on Victoria's Pandora Avenue.
A fence could be seen around the Pandora encampment Sunday morning, as workers and residents began the slow process of dismantling the temporary shelters set up there, work the province says it aims to have completed by May 9.
Rabbi Meir Kaplan of the Chabad Jewish Centre, which is located across from the Topaz Park encampment, issued a statement Sunday praising the government's public safety order to take down the tent city and others like it around B.C.
Kaplan had previously spoken out about an increase in crime in the neighbourhood since the Topaz Park tent city was set up last month, as well as concerns about the safety and well-being of those living in the park.
"The provincial government’s action follows a public outcry expressing concern for lack of personal distancing and sanitation in Topaz Park ... and an unprecedented crime spree involving break-ins, theft from automobiles and open drug dealing," the statement from the Jewish Centre said.
Kaplan said he had received a call from Minister of Education and Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming - whose district includes the park - after his initial complaints.
"I have firsthand information to confirm that the outcry of our community and neighbourhood earlier this week had much to do with the urgency of government's quick and bold steps to remedy the situation,” Kaplan said. “We thank everyone for their support in voicing our community’s and neighbourhood's plight. Together, we were able to ensure the safety of our community while expediting the improvement of conditions for the people who are homeless in our province.”
The province's plan calls for homeless people currently living in Topaz Park and on Pandora Avenue to be moved into five hotels in the Victoria area where the government has secured a total of 324 rooms.
Accommodations will be staffed 24-7 with mental health and addictions support, and the province will also provide meals and security at the facilities.
The province is also agreeing to make any repairs needed to return the rooms to their original condition once the pandemic is over.
On Saturday, the Hotel Association of Greater Victoria said it was encouraged by the support the province planned to put in place for both the occupants and the hotel owners.
The provincial government says moving people into hotels during the COVID-19 pandemic is "a step toward providing permanent housing" for people living in the Topaz and Pandora tent cities.