Homeless campers at the tent city set up on the lawn of Victoria’s courthouse have a month to pack up their stuff and leave the site.
The decision coming down from BC Supreme Court this afternoon saying the encampment is unsafe for those living there, as well as neighbouring residents and businesses.
Today’s ruling means campers have until August 8th to move out, and into homes provided by the province.
The province’s first attempt to shut down the camp was rejected by the courts.
Housing the campers
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson’s decision to shut the camp down is the right call.
“I think it’s positive because people are not being displaced from tents to other areas of the city, they are being moved from tents and into housing.”
She says the province is renovating the former Central Care Home purchased by the province for $11.2-million dollars.
The building will have 147 units, most likely at the shelter allowance rate of $375 dollars, and be operated by the Portland Hotel Society.
“The province is rapidly renovating it right now. It’s not a condo or a giant one bedroom, it’s a room with a washroom, there’s a common kitchen. It’s single room occupancy housing, it’s not a shelter.”
And there are other options…
“For people who aren’t ready to move physically inside, there’s some space at the Choices transitional house if people want to live in tents while they transition into permanent housing.”
Helps says the 147 unit SRO building will be move-in ready by the August 8 deadline.
Stephen Portman with the Together Against Poverty Society says today’s ruling is actually a win for the campers.
He says campers have been clear that the reason for the tent city was that previous provincially owned and operated housing options in Victoria didn’t meet their needs.
He says what’s being offered now is what they’ve been asking for all along.
“Supportive housing run by the province carries heavy restrictions on what you can and can not do, who can come and visit you, are you allowed to live with a partner, can you have a pet… many of those things will not be in place in the housing that’s coming on line.”
A hundred people have been living at the site since last spring, protesting a lack of affordable housing.
But the province argued the camp was ripe with safety concerns, criminality, and the site was deteriorating.
Earlier this week, dozens of people were forced from the camp after the fire commissioner inspected the site and found significant risks.
Residents in the area are furious about the camp, which they say was unsafe and unsanitary, and contributing to property crime in the area.
However, advocates say the camp provides security for the city’s homeless, and is a safer alternative than the street.
Victoria has long struggled with a street homelessness problem, and was forced by the BC Supreme court in 2008 to amend its city bylaws to allow camping in parks if shelters are full.
That bylaw, however, requires tents to be packed up each morning. Critics have argued that the province allowed the camp, which is on provincial property, to develop by refusing to force campers to move in the morning.