How will we address outdoor sheltering?

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Yesterday I received a very thoughtful email from a Victoria resident on the topic of homelessness and the City’s actions in relation to sheltering in parks and outdoors more generally.

This person raised very valid concerns about the city closing parks to sheltering. I have received other emails like this, and people want to know if there is a plan.

There is a plan, and I outlined it in my email response. I think it’s useful to share that, so here it is:

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Many thanks for writing. I appreciate the ideas. And my apologies that you haven’t received a response from me – I definitely do not have time to respond to every email I receive. [The writer had mentioned that they had written to Council several times and never received a response.]

I don’t speak for anyone else on Council of course, but my own vision is that the region and the province will eventually have adequate numbers of sheltering and housing options for the unhoused, e.g.:

  • designated spaces for sheltering outdoors;
  • indoor shelters;
  • affordable housing;
  • market housing with rent supplements;
  • supportive housing;
  • complex care housing;
  • addiction and recovery beds for those who need them;

such that there is no need for sheltering in parks, streets and boulevards.

We have a critical shortage of the above listed items, due to decades of underinvestment resulting from the devastating, ideologically- and politically-motivated government spending cuts that started in the 1980s and 1990s. It will take years to fully reverse those, but we are seeing the beginnings, e.g. the opening of supportive housing (another one this week – the Juniper building). This is taking place under Belonging in BC, the province’s comprehensive homelessness plan, which anticipates all of the above listed items and more. To be clear, homelessness and its causes and related problems are the responsibility of the provincial and federal governments, and will require many years of significant re-investment.

This said, I currently intend to vote against further parks closure proposals until we at least have a robust analysis from City staff of our legal obligations under the Charter and our ability to treat the unhoused humanely, which includes access to the sheltering and housing options listed above.