A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the provincial government and the City of Victoria on a partnership to end the current homeless encampments within the municipality and help prevent further encampments in the future.
In a release, both levels of government state they will engage with other partners to develop temporary and permanent housing options. Furthermore, the municipal government and the Capital Regional District will provide available land and buildings for shelter or housing, and expedite required approvals.
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The agreement sets out the roles and responsibilities of both governments in securing shelter or housing for people currently living outside to decamp parks and other public spaces by the end of April 2021.
“We’ve gotten to the beginning of the end of this crisis by working constructively with Victoria on really difficult issues,” said David Eby, BC Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing, in a statement.
“After we reach our shared goal of getting those living in parks and ravines inside, that intergovernmental work and co-operation cannot stop. If this agreement helps us keep momentum, we will succeed not just in preventing encampments, but in housing vulnerable people with dignity on an ongoing basis.”
Under the agreement, the municipal government is required to take the lead on managing sites when encampments are dismantled, including installing fencing and providing enforcement to prevent people from moving back into parks.
Last week, Victoria City Council approved the reinstatement of the bylaw that mandates campers in parks to leave the premises with their belongings by 7 am.
Beacon Hill Park near downtown Victoria has been particularly problematic, where a sizeable encampment of homeless individuals has formed and expanded during COVID-19.
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Similarly, the provincial government is also working with the Vancouver Park Board and the City of Vancouver to put an end to the large encampment at Strathcona Park, where there are as many as 200 tents at last count. The Park Board has begun the process of decamping the west side of the park, and are preparing the possible use of a court injunction.
The former Army & Navy store in the Downtown Eastside and a city-owned warehouse building on Terminal Avenue in the False Creek Flats will open as new temporary shelters specifically for Strathcona Park campers. Both shelters with a combined capacity of 120 beds will open by the end of next month, putting an end to the encampment that first began in June 2020, which was a relocation of the remnants of the previous Oppenheimer Park and Crab Park encampments.
Through BC Housing, the provincial government has also been acquiring a number of old, low-end hotels for supportive housing.