Before news from the City of Victoria that Royal Athletic Park would not be used as a temporary shelter site, members of Victoria’s North Park Neighbourhood Association (NPNA) were looking for answers in regards to the upcoming temporary camp site for the area’s homeless population.
The park was set to become a temporary shelter space for the city’s most vulnerable population, with a focus on those suffering from mental health and addictions issues.
The City of Victoria originally proposed the idea on March 23, saying that it would work alongside BC Housing, the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, the Dandelion Society and Island Health to monitor the site, as well as an additional site at Topaz Park. The parks would have infrastructure including washrooms and handwashing facilities, access to food and appropriately-spaced tents.
Topaz park is already up and running, but as of Wednesday morning there was no infrastructure in place at the Royal Athletic Park, prompting the NPNA to organize a question and answer night with answers from Victoria Police Chief Const. Del Manak.
“Generally people in North Park have been very supportive of it, they just want to be sure that it happens in a reasonable way that’s going to minimize any unintended consequences,” said Sean Kahil, NPNA board member. “So this is just an opportunity for people to get a little bit more detail.”
People have sent the NPNA questions they’d like Manak to answer to allow him time to get full answers, but similar themes kept emerging.
“People want to make sure there’s not a lot of traffic, and that social distancing will be accomplished well, not just in the park but outside of it,” Kahil said. ” They want to know where they will be getting food? Will it be there or will they be walking through the neighbourhood? And of course, general security concerns.”
Many people are also wondering how temporary the site will be, and are advocating that an exit plan is also in place to reclaim the park after the pandemic is over.
Others voiced concerns about retaining green space in unparalleled times when parks might be a relief for people otherwise in self-isolation.
The questions will be addressed through an online event happening on Thursday, April 9 from 7-8:00 p.m. Anyone interested in watching can register for the event at eventbrite.com.
On Wednesday, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps announced that Island Health had nixed plans for outdoor shelters, instead moving to an indoor sheltering model. NPNA could not be reached for a response at the time of publication.