Our Place temporarily shuts drop-in, citing violence, mask non-compliance

Our Place closed its drop-in centre on Thursday over concerns of increasing incidents of violence and the refusal of many to wear masks amid highly transmittable variants of the COVID-19 virus.

Julian Daly, chief executive of the society, said the facility on Pandora Avenue will reopen Friday with new rules for entry.

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He said the closure was meant “to send a message of zero tolerance.”

“We are taking the time today to re-think how we manage who’s coming in and out,” said Daly. “We don’t want people who are barred from Our Place or come to make trouble. We will also communicate with people to wear a mask and not let them in if they are not wearing a mask.”

Our Place continued to serve takeout meals at the gate and had its shower facilities open.

The closure made it look like there were more people than usual outside Our Place Thursday, but reports of a growing encampment were exaggerated, with only two tents visible in the afternoon.

The shelter had initially posted a sign on its front door saying the closure was due to “a rise in violence, lack of community support and mask non-compliance.”

It was later changed to read the shelter had shut its doors due to “health concerns.”

Daly said only a handful of members of Victoria’s street community are banned from Our Place. “It is difficult to get barred here, but there are a few,” he said, adding some have managed to get in and cause trouble.

He said the closure was not due to a COVID-19 outbreak, but concern over the number of people who were not wearing masks, as the entrance is often an unchecked “free flow.”

“We want to ensure our staff and our family are safe,” said Daly.

He said the new entrance checks are also part of an effort to reduce police calls to Our Place. “I know police are stretched so far that sometimes they can’t respond to calls,” Daly said.

dkloster@timescolonist.com

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