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Province delays dismantling Victoria homeless camps as 250 people remain in Topaz Park, Pandora Avenue
VICTORIA -- The B.C. government has extended its deadline to dismantle the tent encampments that have sprung up in Victoria's Topaz Park and Pandora Avenue during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The initial deadline called for the encampments to be taken down and the homeless people living in them moved indoors by May.
The deadline has now been extended to May 20.
Approximately 250 homeless people remain in Topaz Park and along Pandora Avenue, B.C's Minister of Social Development said Friday, adding that he's "confident" the government will find "more than enough" accommodations for them.
Minister Shane Simpson said BC Housing and partnering organizations needed more time to safely move those people into temporary accommodations by the May 9 deadline.
"We were told by those operators that they needed a bit more time to best prepare those accommodations," Simpson said at a press conference in Vancouver Friday.
"We were happy to say, 'Take a few more days, we're good with that,'" he added. "It is our desire that we get this right, that we do it right."
Simpson said "no one will be asked to leave these encampments without being offered a suitable temporary housing option" by the province.
“Early in the pandemic it became clear that COVID-19, coupled with the ongoing overdose crisis, has created significant health and safety concerns for our province's vulnerable people living in encampments, the professionals and volunteers that support these groups and the communities we all share,” he said.
The province ordered the Victoria encampments dismantled on April 25, when it said those living in the park and along the street would be moved into vacant hotels and motels.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Victoria’s Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre was being converted into a temporary shelter for dozens of people from the city’s homeless camps.
"While we have been working with the hotel sector and service delivery partners toward the May 9 target in Victoria, it is now clear that more time is needed to ensure each person leaving Topaz Park and Pandora Avenue is moved into the accommodation that best meets their needs,” Simpson said.
By Thursday afternoon, the province said 320 people in Victoria and Vancouver had been moved into temporary accommodations.
With many hotels and motels expected to reopen early this summer, it remains unclear what the province's plan for post-COVID-19 housing will be.
Simpson said the province is looking to tackle the long-term homelessness issue and the government is working with municipalities like the City of Victoria.