Days after the 2018 Point in Time count revealed that 1,525 people are experiencing homelessness in the region, the City of Victoria wants to drop a couple parks as camping options and boost its parks budget related to sheltering activities.
Two small green spaces, Reeson Park on Wharf Street at the foot of Yates Street, and Quadra Park at the corner of Belleville and Oswego Streets, are not conducive to camping, said Coun. Margaret Lucas, whose made a motion at committee of the whole Thursday morning to ban the activity in both.
“There’s no washroom, no running water, nothing to support people,” she said. “Repeatedly over the years there has been trouble with camping overnight with regards to noise, partying, alcohol, drug abuse and leaving of drug paraphernalia on site. It’s not conducive on either site for people to be camping in, or for people living in the area.”
Both parks are located near residential and hotel areas; Reeson Park sits next to the Victoria Regent Waterfront Hotel and Suites condominium/hotel, while Quadra Park sits next to the Best Western Plus Inner Harbour.
The amount of work it takes to clean up after park campers has City staff requesting an additional $100,000 to cover the costs. Parks, Recreation and Facilities was allotted $200,000 for the task in its 2018-19 budget in January after requesting $300,000. Council voted at the time to put the additional $100,000 towards housing options.
Halfway through the year, however, more funding is already needed.
In a report, Thomas Soulliere, director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities, stated that sheltering in City parks has increased since 2017 and that staff are currently receiving 294 calls for service per month, up from approximately 200 in 2016 and 2017.
Attending these calls and providing cleanup costs the City $25,000 per month in seven-day-a-week staffing plus expenses related to security, portable washrooms and supplies.
As of June 30, $146,757 had been spent.
Lucas said at the end of the day, the most important thing is to make sure shelters are available.
“They need to be in homes, that’s the bottom line. We need to ensure they have a place to live, with proper services and rehabilitation; we won’t be able to get any of that camping in a park.”
Council sitting as committee of the whole approved both the camping ban at Reeson and Quadra parks and the provision of more clean-up funding, with ratification expected at the evening council meeting.