Victoria to end all-day camping in parks in May
VICTORIA -- The City of Victoria will no longer allow unsheltered people to camp at city parks 24 hours a day starting in May.
On Thursday, Victoria city council voted to end daytime camping on May 1, as more people are moved into indoor sheltering over the next month.
Campers will only be allowed to stay at select parks from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., as was the case before the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic was declared last year, the city allowed campers to remain in parks 24 hours a day since indoor sheltering space was limited because of physical distancing and other health requirements.
"It has been a challenging year since the pandemic amplified the realities of homelessness, and having people sheltering in parks has not been ideal for anyone," said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps in a statement Friday.
"With a commitment from the province that everyone is being offered indoor options as a pathway to permanent housing by the end of April, people will have the supports they need and the city parks can be restored to their pre-pandemic use," she said.
Both the city and the province initially planned to have everyone housed in indoor sheltering by the end of March. That timeline was moved to the end of April on March 11.
At the time, the provincial government estimated that there were at least 200 unsheltered people living in Victoria.
Since the beginning of March, the city says that 116 people have been moved into temporary indoor accommodations.
The city adds that it will continue to monitor outdoor shelters for regulations that were introduced during the pandemic, such as size of encampments, distance from other camps, and location relative to other properties like schools, until the province's state of emergency is declared over.
The city also plans to add Centennial Square, Central Park and Cecelia Ravine Park to the list of areas where camping is prohibited at all times, including overnight.
Municipal staff will be notifying the community of the end of 24/7 camping over the next six weeks, according to the city. This includes contacting people living in parks, community partners and service providers.