The B.C. government is assessing the safety of Victoria’s sprawling downtown tent camp, and if safety risks continue it will consider applying again for an injunction to clean it up.
Housing Minister Rich Coleman said Monday he will give staff from Vancouver’s Portland Hotel Society until the end of April to work with camp residents, and then reassess the safety. A key issue is the fire risk in an area with tarp-covered tents packed so tightly around the courthouse lawn that there is no way to escape, Coleman said.
Portland Hotel Society operates single-room occupancy hotels in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Its staff were brought to Victoria in mid-April after B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson refused to grant a temporary injunction to the province to clear the site.
By Monday morning, some tents had been rearranged to provide gaps, but the courthouse camp is as crowded as any time since it sprang up last fall. Coleman said housing has been provided for 180 people, but more continue to come in, many from out of province.
“It’s frustrating,” Coleman said. “There are people down there who are not homeless. They go down there during the day, they have places to live but they hang out. There are other people who are on the site who are not homeless.”
Coleman estimated there are currently about 30 people on the site who “may have a reason that they’re homeless,” and efforts continue to locate accommodation for them.