Skip to content

Victoria not keeping B.C. in the loop as Pandora bylaw sweeps continue

Tents and other belongings taken in much larger sweep on Thursday (May 16) yet to be returned
Bylaw officers tell a person sheltering on Pandora Avenue to take their tent down on Friday, May 17. (Mark Page/News Staff)

Bylaw officers were back on Pandora Avenue on Friday (May 17) telling people to take down their tents.

Frustration was evident amongst both the people being told to pack up and the support workers from Our Place, which operates a shelter and community centre on the block.

Still, it was far more subdued than the day before when as many as 20 police and bylaw officers swept through the block between Quadra and Vancouver streets, clearing tents and confiscating belongings.

None of the people Black Press Media spoke to that had their belongings taken by officers the day prior have had anything returned.

The provincial government was not made aware of the action, according to a spokesperson from the housing ministry.

“Neither the province nor BC Housing were involved in, nor made aware of, the actions taken to move individuals off Pandora Ave. on May 16, 2024,” a Housing Ministry spokesperson wrote in an email to Black Press Media.

The city is responsible for enforcing street-level bylaws, but the provincial goverment is involved in housing and social services.

Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto had called this part of normal bylaw enforcement on Thursday, but support workers and those sheltering on the block dispute that narrative. A spokesperson for the city had not responded to a request for further comment by Friday afternoon.

Confiscated personal items not being returned

Several large trucks had shown up on Thursday morning and bylaw officers had begun piling in people’s belongings, according to Julian Daly, CEO of the community services organizaton Our Place.

“One of the saddest sights I saw yesterday was this huge truck, piled high with people’s stuff,” he said. “In theory people can get stuff back, but in practice they rarely do.”

Daly called the clearing of tents on Thursday the largest and most coordinated effort he had ever seen on Pandora.

“What happened yesterday absolutely was not normal,” Daly said. “It was not a standard routine day here at all.”

He said the city had given his organization no indication the impending bylaw enforcement was about to happen.

Jonathan Adams, who has lived on the block on and off since last summer, said bylaw officers do come around every day but that Thursday’s action was “a little more extreme.”

Story continues below

Jonathan Adams has sheltered on Pandora Avenue on and off since last summer. He says he has never been able to get back possessions taken by bylaw officers. (Mark Page/News Staff)

He did say he has had officers take his things before, but has never been able to get anything back.

“They were swearing up and down and saying I can come back and get it all the next day,” Adams said. “And I went down the next day like they said, and they told me that they threw it in the garbage can.”

This time, he managed to get his stuff hidden away, but said that is not really an ideal solution.

“Then you leave your gear somewhere where it’s not really safe,” he said. “I could have lost everything last night just from not attending it.”

Others on the block — who did not want to be identified by name — said they had tents and other belongings taken on Thursday and not returned. One person said he thought bylaw officers were trying to force him to have to sleep outside in the elements.

Outreach workers looking for ‘pathway off Pandora’

The Housing Ministry spokesperson said outreach workers funded by the province are actively working with people sheltering on Pandora Avenue to ensure they are aware of available supports.

“Encampments are best resolved and prevented when all partners work together to carefully plan any actions that may displace or disconnect people, while offering people a pathway out of homelessness, which includes shelter, assessment and support to move to a range of housing options that best meet individual needs,” the spokesperson wrote.

Our Place had committed on May 7 to finding individualized housing solutions for each person sheltering on Pandora by the end of the year.

Daly said on Friday morning that the organization had already taken steps to identify individual needs of each person regularly living on that block of Pandora.

“I was already working with people in Island Health and other places to begin that process of trying to find them a pathway off Pandora,” he said. “But now that they’ve all gone and been scattered to the winds it’s going to make that make that work…much more difficult.”

READ MORE: PHOTOS: Victoria police, bylaw focus on Pandora for second consecutive day

READ MORE: Victoria organization says surprise encampment sweep not routine

READ MORE: Victoria’s Our Place commits to helping every person off Pandora by year-end

About the Author: Mark Page

Read more