The deadline to end daytime sheltering in Victoria parks has been set for May 1.
The new date was set Thursday when Victoria council adopted bylaw changes removing a provision that allowed for daytime sheltering since last spring. The May 1 deadline is a month later than the original deadline of March 31.
In a statement, Mayor Lisa Helps said the past year has “amplified the realities of homelessness.”
“Having people sheltering in parks has not been ideal for anyone,” she said. “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.”
With the previous bylaw coming into effect, shelters will no longer be allowed in parks between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., effective May 1. Additionally, Cecilia Ravine Park, Centennial Square and Central Park will be added to the list of parks where sheltering is prohibited.
In late February, BC Housing – in partnership with the city – committed to providing shelter spaces for all people living outside. At that time BC Housing said an estimated 200 people living in the city’s parks would be offered indoor shelter as a pathway to permanent housing by March 31.
But on March 11, that deadline had been extended. The province said the delay was the result of two recently-secured housing sites, which needed “significant additional retrofitting to prepare them for use as emergency shelters.”
Despite the delay, the city says 116 people have been moved inside since the beginning of March.
In a press release issued March 11, Helps said 24/7 sheltering will not be prohibited until spaces open and offers have been made to unhoused residents. The release also stated Victoria, the province and BC Housing have secured enough housing spaces that will be fully operational by April 30 with staff on-site 24/7 to provide meal programs, life skills training and health and wellness support.
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