'I hold the city responsible': Victoria Jewish centre says Topaz Park homeless camp ‘terrorizing’ residents
VICTORIA -- The operators of a Jewish centre in Victoria are calling on the city to dismantle a designated homeless encampment in Topaz Park, saying homeless people are "terrorizing residents" and creating "an unprecedented crime spree" in the neighbourhood.
Topaz Park was authorized by the city last month as a preferred location to shelter the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Across the street, the Chabad Jewish Centre says its security cameras have recorded several burglary attempts, thefts and break-ins since the camp opened.
The Jewish centre cites a 126 per cent increase in calls to Victoria police to the area since March 15, saying the religious centre is under threat from homeless people in the area.
Rabbi Meir Kaplan says the city must dismantle the camp and find alternative housing for people living in the park.
“In no way does this improve social distancing for homeless people with no sanitation and it is not a solution for homelessness,” Kaplan said in a statement Monday.
“The community was never consulted by the city and this has turned our community into a dangerous place to live and visit. I hold the city responsible.”
The Chabad centre, which opened in 2015, houses a synagogue and a daycare centre on Glasgow Street, immediately adjacent to the park.
Kaplan, who lives near the centre, says open drug use, assaults, thefts and aggressive behaviour have made it unsafe for many to attend the centre. He said the city is using the novel coronavirus pandemic “as an excuse” to shelter homeless people in the park.