British Columbia

Daytime camping ban begins in Victoria as advocates work to find housing for those in need

A ban on daytime camping in Victoria parks that went into place over the weekend means anyone who has been living in those areas will have to find somewhere else to spend their days, and for some, that means a move into transitional housing.

One option will be a tiny-home village that is set to open next week

Bylaw officers and police went into Victoria, B.C., parks to enforce the rule over the weekend and advocates were also there to help people. Mayor Lisa Helps said reports she received indicated everything went 'relatively well.' (Yvette Brend/CBC)

As of Saturday, a bylaw prohibiting daytime camping in Victoria city parks has come into effect, and people in those areas are being asked to leave by 7 a.m. PT. 

Tents can be put back up at 8 p.m. during the summer and 7 p.m. in the winter. 

However, anyone who has already agreed to move into temporary housing, including a tiny-home village or one of the temporary housing sites that already exists or is being built, won't have to take down their tents in the morning, according to the city's mayor.

"They need to get on the B.C. housing registry if they're homeless," Victoria mayor Lisa Helps told On the Island host Gregor Craigie. 

"I don't want people camping in the city of Victoria. It's not good for anyone. I mean, that's been abundantly clear."

She said anyone who isn't homeless and is just camping overnight should look for an alternative place to set up camp.

"Our parks are not campgrounds," she said. 

To hear Victoria mayor Lisa Helps' interview on CBC's On the Island, click here: 

Helps said bylaw officers and police went into parks to enforce the rule over the weekend and advocates were also there to help people. According to reports the mayor received, everything went "relatively well."

"In terms of danger or fear or worry, everything went went relatively smoothly," Helps said. 

Over the next few weeks, tents will come down as people who have signed on for temporary or transitional housing will gradually be moved into those spaces.

Starting Monday, people will move from various parks around the city into the Russell Street shelter, where 60 "pods" with walls, beds and lockers are available. Julian Daly, the CEO of Our Place, which operates the shelter, said as of Monday afternoon 10 people had been moved in, and people will be moved in gradually over the next few days.

"I think it's very inviting, it's certainly a lot nicer and better than many shelters I've seen over the years in different cities in our country," Daly said. 

Other people will move into other transitional or supportive housing facilities in the city, including a few available rooms at the Capital City Center Hotel

More housing coming

A tiny-home village, made of shipping containers, is set to open for residents May 12. 

It has space for 30 residents. 

Shipping container tiny-homes in Victoria will look like this one, staged for a media tour in late April. (Rohit Joseph/CBC)

"Just the act of having a roof over your head, a shower, a washroom, privacy, an opportunity to build community, feel welcome, feel part of community, that alone helps to to bring down people's stress and provide an opportunity for some stability which they may not have had for years," Kelly Roth, the executive director of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, told CBC's Rohit Joseph. 

The tiny-home village in Victoria, B.C., will provide a safe, private living space for 30 residents. (Rohit Joseph/CBC)

Neighbours of 865 Catherine Street in Victoria are invited to participate in an online consultation Monday about plans for a 45-unit supportive housing facility.

Heidi Hartman, B.C. Housing's Vancouver Island Regional Director, said staff do a careful assessment of each resident who will move into the building. She expects these won't be people coming directly from a park, but from another temporary shelter site where they will have lived until the Catherine Street building is ready for move-in. 

"This is purpose-built housing," Hartman said. 

"From my experience up and down the island ... when we've opened a permanent, purpose-built, supportive housing like [what] will go into Catherine Street, it's integrated very well into the community."

To hear sound from CBC's tour of the new tiny-home village in Victoria, click here: 

With files from On the Island, All Points West and Rohit Joseph