People living in tents in Central Park that flooded during Monday’s rain and snowfall began moving their belongings to dry tents in a parking lot next to Royal Athletic Park Wednesday afternoon.
Multiple outreach groups and neighbours came together to set up new tents in the parking lot to give people a dry place to sleep after the insides of their tents and their belongings were soaked Monday.
Darrin Murphy, who has been living in a tent in the park with his partner since July, said everything inside their tent is wet and covered in mould. “I don’t know what warmth is anymore,” he said.
Murphy said in low-lying areas of the park, closer to Crystal Pool, three to four inches of water seeped into his neighbours’ tents. On Wednesday morning, he was preparing to move to the parking lot and into a dry tent. “It will be nice to get out of this wet, mouldy tent.”
People living in the park were given sleeping bags and cots Tuesday, but some lost everything to the flooding, said Jen Wilde, regional co-ordinator for the Greater Victoria Extreme Weather Protocol. “Their personal gear, their clothing is all soaked, so they’re all running to the laundromat to get it cleaned and dried. It’s a mess. It’s a total mess out here. They are living in a mud puddle,” she said.
Wilde said people would likely spend the next few days moving down the street to the parking lot, which is not a formally managed site.
About a dozen tents were filled by 3 p.m. and more people were on the way, she said.
Alison Ashcroft, a board member for the North Park Neighbourhood Association, said the group put a call out for volunteers, and more than 50 neighbours showed up to help over the course of the afternoon.
They helped people pack their belongings to move, and offered their trucks to transport pallets and muddy clothing to the laundromat so people could dry their clothes. “It’s nice to see people haven’t become too exhausted,” Ashcroft said. “People are frustrated by the lack of proper solutions from government, but they’re not taking it out on the people who are sleeping in these tents, and that’s pretty great.”
They’ve also been working with electricians to try to get hydro hooked up so people can stay warm and keep devices charged, Ashcroft said.
Sean Kahil, another board member of the association, said the group has been warning the park would flood and soak people living there.
“It’s a shame that it had to actually happen, the horrible situation had to happen. People had to go through it, and then be filmed going through it for the reality to set in,” he said. “This happens every year. Anyone who’s around the park knows that. It’s not unpredictable.”
Members of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness mapped the park and counted 32 people living in tents Tuesday, said Jason Chadwick, who was living in the park until a few weeks ago and works with the coalition.
Everyone who wants to move to a new tent in the parking lot will be able to do so, he said.