Victoria's Lisa Helps wants mayors to tent on Parliament Hill

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is looking to take the issue of homelessness and the need for basic shelter to the national stage.

“I’m actually serious about getting mayors from across the country to go set up our tents on Parliament Hill during the election campaign, to draw attention to this as a national emergency because that’s what it really is,” Helps said Sunday.

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She said she has asked Coun. Chris Coleman, council’s representative with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, to get the email addresses of all of Canada’s mayors.

“I’m going to write and say let’s get organized and go tent for one night some time in early October.”

The federal election is scheduled for Oct. 19.

Homelessness is a concern all over Canada, Helps said.

“Every city is struggling with this. I talk to mayors all the time and this is an issue across the country.”

No one should have to sleep on the streets, Helps said.

Her idea to take national action comes as Victoria council considers taking further steps to help the city’s homeless, with a tent city in a municipal park among the options. A report from city staff said Topaz Park “appears to have the greatest potential,” something that does not sit well with some nearby residents.

A group of about 60 people met at Topaz Park Saturday and voiced their concerns.

Helps said the public is invited to meet at the park’s fieldhouse at 7 p.m. Thursday for an event set up by Coun. Ben Isitt.

“It’s to give information but also, more importantly, to gather information,” Helps said.

Helps said that the idea of allowing a tent facility in a municipal park has been around for a while. Council is looking to take a “comprehensive approach” to dealing with homelessness and housing concerns, she said.

“It’s part of a process.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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