British Columbia

Victoria homeless camp in desperate need of staff, supplies, organizer says

Over 100 homeless campers at Topaz Park in Victoria are receiving shelter and services to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

City is allowing people to camp in municipal parks during the pandemic

Donated tents have been set up in Victoria's Topaz Park on designated spots set apart from one another to ensure physical distancing. Washrooms and shower facilities are also available on site. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

More staff and supplies are critically needed at a homeless camp in a Victoria park to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and make sure the needs of more than 100 people now sleeping there are met, a longtime advocate says.

Don Evans, formerly CEO of the outreach society Our Place, manages the ad-hoc camp at Topaz Park and is asking anyone with social work, security or health-care experience to apply to join him.

The work is paid and applications can be submitted online to the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness

The City of Victoria is allowing the homeless to sleep in tents in municipal parks as a temporary measure to help people sleeping rough maintain physical distancing measures during the pandemic. 

Topaz Park was chosen by the city as a designated site for the homeless to camp in. The camp is being managed by the coalition, which consists of local housing, health and social service providers, non-profit organizations, and government and business partners.

Help wanted

Evans said people are needed to keep the Topaz Park camp running in an orderly fashion.

The work can include keeping campers from encroaching on the neighbourhood, making sure everyone gets the services they need, and ensuring physical distancing is being followed as per public health orders.

"We are still trying to get that better but it is getting there for sure," said Evans, speaking about the distancing measures in the camp on CBC's On The Island on Wednesday.

Evans said tents have been set up in a field inside a fenced area where services, such as three daily meals and shower facilities, are also being provided. Evans said the majority of the tents, which can sleep up to six but are intended for one person or a couple, were supplied by the city.

"They are all in a row and distanced from each other and [the site is] designed for emergency vehicles to get in," said Evans.

Tents, socks and water welcome 

Evans says there is still a need for more six-person tents, as well as bottled water, packaged dry-good snacks such as granola bars, and new packages of socks and underwear. 

He said these items can be brought to the camp, which is located in the park just off Blanshard Street. Evans asks people not to donate any clothing aside from the packaged items requested.

"We don't want the virus brought in," he said.

Anyone who has items they would like to donate but are unsure if there is a need, or how to deliver them, can contact the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness online.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said the long-term plan is to get homeless people inside. With limited city-owned facilities that can be used, B.C. Housing is working to find places like vacant motels for homeless people to stay in. 

To hear the complete interview with Don Evans on On The Island, tap here.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.

With files from On The Island

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