Bylaw officers were in Beacon Hill Park on Friday taking away tents, bike parts and refuse left behind by people who have moved from environmentally and culturally sensitive areas to other areas of the park.
City of Victoria bylaw officers have spent the past week removing unoccupied shelters and cleaning up following a July 28 court injunction granted to the City of Victoria requiring people to remove all tents, structures and personal property from certain areas in the park. People had 48 hours to move. Any items remaining in the prohibited areas after the deadline can be removed or disposed of by the city.
“Bylaw staff are in the park daily to move people out of environmentally and culturally sensitive areas of the park where sheltering is prohibited, and assisting them to relocate to other areas where it is not prohibited,” said City of Victoria spokesman Bill Eisenhauer. Eisenhauer said most of the people previously sheltering in prohibited areas have moved or are in the process of relocating. There were about 38 structures in the prohibited areas before the court order and that’s dwindled to about nine, he said.
On Friday, bylaw officers helped two campers with a large encampments move from an area near Dallas Road and Mile Zero.
“People have been co-operative and responsive, everyone has moved voluntarily following discussions with bylaw about the need to move to abide by the court order,” Eisenhauer said, adding that police have not had to be involved.
People experiencing homelessness can shelter in several designated city parks. Typically, they are required to remove shelters during the day. However, Victoria councillors voted to allow tents to remain up during the pandemic, a move that has been criticized by Premier John Horgan.
An estimated 100 people are now sheltering in Beacon Hill Park.
A petition called Save Beacon Hill Park, created by Cynthia Diadick, has more than 23,000 signatures. In July, a group of city parks staff said they were refusing to work in the park after two city employees were threatened.
Other people are calling for compassion, saying the situation in the park underscores the need for more affordable housing. A second petition calling for compassionate treatment of people experiencing homelessness in the park has garnered more than 2,500 signatures.
A peaceful rally called Homes, Not Hate is planned from 9:30 a.m. to noon today at the soccer field across from the Beacon Drive In. It’s being organized by the Lived and Living Experience of Homelessness Network and Awesome Allies in response to “poor-bashing, fear-mongering, dehumanization and hate,” according to an event message posted on Facebook.
The event was organized as a counter-rally to a protest walk by Save Beacon Hill Park. A Facebook post by that group said while there was significant support for the walk calling for the end of 24-7 camping in the park, it was cancelled “out of an abundance of caution for the safety of participants.”