As Victoria City Council’s downtown liaison, I speak with a lot of downtown residents, business owners, service providers and other individuals and organizations on a regular basis.
They tell me what I already know and see almost every day – that Pandora is a humanitarian disaster.
One of the many aspects to this disaster is the lack of a washroom to serve those sheltering. Thus building owners and tenants are finding that people have used their gardens, sidewalks, and front doors as toilets. Yes there are people sheltering on Pandora, many of whom are suffering from physical disabilities, serious mental illnesses, brain injuries, chronic addiction, and more – and they need to use the washroom, just like the rest of us.
And just like the rest of us, they sometimes need to use a washroom at night, when there are no washrooms available nearby. In that situation, they will be forced to go where they can, which is degrading and frankly awful for them and for everyone else in the area.
For a year now I have been meeting monthly with a group of service providers, charities, building owners, and others trying to identify solutions to some of the specific problems with Pandora, including the lack of a 24/7 washroom.
I have written to the Government of BC pointing out the excellent fit between this small but urgent need and the government’s Belonging in BC comprehensive homelessness plan (which I also wrote about here).
Belonging in BC says, among other things:
“Phase One actions through Budget 2022 include…
Funding to protect the health and safety of people in encampments through supports such as site management and engagement; food; storage of personal items; cultural supports and ceremony; access to washrooms and showers; and transition to housing. Development of an Encampment Resource Guide for communities.”
I look forward to the BC Government providing temporary 24/7 washroom access on Pandora.
I want to emphasize the word temporary, because the larger situation cannot continue. The people sheltering on Pandora, like those in parks and other streets, must be housed in appropriate settings, including affordable housing, supportive housing, and complex care housing (“housing with intensive health, mental health care and additional supports for people struggling with complex substance use and mental health issues” as noted in Belonging in BC).
Fortunately, all of that housing is also in the Belonging in BC plan. It does take a while to build it, and we need to ensure that there is enough of it, but the province is actively rolling it out. And I look forward to the City of Victoria and neighbouring municipalities throughout the region approving more of that housing (approvals are the primary way that municipalities contribute to building needed housing and addressing homelessness).
In the meantime, Pandora needs that 24/7 washroom.