British Columbia

Flooded campers in Victoria's Central Park need 'immediate' indoor shelter, say neighbours

Nearly 50 people living in an encampment in Victoria’s Central Park need immediate relief after their tents and belongings were flooded during Monday’s extreme weather, says the local neighbourhood association.

Neighbours are calling on the province to use Save-on-Foods arena as an indoor shelter

Tents in Victoria's Central Park sit on swamp-like ground after extreme weather on Monday. (North Park Neighbourhood Association/Twitter)

Nearly 50 people living in an encampment in Victoria's Central Park need immediate relief after their tents and belongings were flooded during Monday's extreme weather, says the local neighbourhood association.

Photos and videos posted on social media show waterlogged tents and shelters sitting in flooded fields and mud.

"The neighbours whose houses line that park have been telling the city and specifically the parks department for months that this park turns into a swamp in its entirety," said Allison Ashcroft, a board member of the North Park Neighbourhood Association.

The homeless encampment in Victoria's Central Park sits in standing water after a winter storm passed through on Monday. (North Park Neighbourhood Association/Twitter)

In the wake of the flooding, the City of Victoria has stepped in to move people temporarily to a portion of the parking lot at the Royal Athletic Park across the street.

"The priority is to get people out of that flooded situation," said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps in an interview on CBC's All Points West. "B.C. Housing has offered to purchase a new tent, new cot and sleeping gear for anyone who has been flooded, not only at Central Park but also throughout the city."

B.C. Housing says the paved parking lot provides "higher, drier ground."

In an email to CBC News, the agency says it's working on negotiations with the operator of the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre to reopen the arena as an indoor shelter.

"BC Housing and the GSL Group recently began discussions on reusing the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre as a temporary shelter for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Victoria, but no firm decisions have been made at this time," reads the statement.

The facility was set up to provide temporary shelter to people camping on Pandora Avenue and in Topaz Park during the peak of the pandemic. It was closed in September after the people living there were moved to more permanent and supportive housing.

Ashcroft sees no reason to delay reopening the arena as a shelter since it sits on city-owned land.

"We should have that built into the operating agreement for any publicly-owned asset [...] part of the benefit of having the use of a public asset, is that in a state of emergency, it gets handed over for what it's needed to be used for."

She says the temporary move to the Royal Athletic Park parking lot is an "improvement," but there is an immediate need for indoor sheltering.

"It's disappointing that it's had to come to this where people have had to experience such undue hardship and anguish the last two days and yet another night still tonight."

Listen to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps on CBC's All Points West:

Monday's rain storm caused flooding in Victoria's Central park where people experiencing homelessness are camping. Photos and videos posted on social media show water-logged tents sitting in flooded fields and mud. The North Park Neighbourhood Association has called for immediate action for people who are in distress. Kathryn Marlow spoke with association board member Allison Ashcroft and she also reached Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who outlined some steps that are being taken to help. 10:48

With files from CBC's All Points West

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