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Pandora encampment mostly back one week after sweep

Victoria bylaw officers cordoned off sections of the block behind yellow tape on May 16 and impounded tents, clothes and other belongings.

A week after a large-scale cleanup on Pandora that left the 900-block virtually empty of tents and people, the street is once again filled with people sheltering.

The block is about as busy as it was before a cleanup effort on May 16 by city bylaw officers that resulted in just a few tents remaining, said Jordan Cooper, director of services at Our Place Society, which helps people sheltering on the block.

Victoria bylaw officers cordoned off sections of the block behind yellow tape on May 16 and impounded tents, clothes and other belongings. While bylaw officers are there most mornings, those who work on the block said it was drastically different from other days.

Bylaw officers generally clean up garbage and ask some people to take their tents down, but they don’t require people to move along. Last week, people got the message that they needed to be gone, Our Place staff said at the time.

Following the cleanup, Mayor Marianne Alto said bylaw officers were doing the same work they do every day to clean up garbage and maintain cleanliness, but it might have been a larger response because officers hadn’t been on the block in several days. She said the goal was not to push people off the block, despite the fact that nearly everyone dispersed.

Those who returned are on edge, saying they are worried about the next visit from bylaw officers, Cooper said.

Bylaw officers haven’t been seen in the area since last Friday, he said. “We’ve been trying to assure people that we don’t think that that’s going to be the approach when they return.”

The absence of officers this week means garbage is piling up on the block, Cooper said. “We’ve been doing our best to try and clean up in front of our building and try to do what we can.”

Outreach workers have noticed an increase in people sheltering in parks since the cleanup. Some who chose to stay in a park instead of returning to the block have said they’re worried about settling on Pandora and having to move again, Cooper said.

People who access resources on the block, such as food, showers, laundry and a drug-consumption site, are separated from those services, he said.

Fred Cameron, senior manager in charge of housing for SOLID Outreach, said bylaw officers cleared a lot of garbage during the cleanup and the block is cleaner than it was. “But at the same time that totally disrupts the lives of the people who are living there.” The majority of people have returned and they’re “a little bit angry,” Cameron said.

“I think the anger kind of builds, which makes it more difficult. Even from a bylaw perspective, if you create a relationship where people don’t want to cooperate with you, you’re fighting against the current.”

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