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Comment: A personal appeal to David Eby: Please help Victoria

There is overwhelming evidence that in and around the province’s supportive housing facilities, there is too much crime and disorder.
Victoria Coun. Stephen Hammond. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A commentary by a Victoria council member.

The day after International Women’s Day, six Victoria councillors and the mayor, four men and three women, were more concerned about the fragile ego of one of the most privileged men in our country than they were about a businesswoman who has been threatened with rape.

On March 9, I, along with Coun. Marg Gardiner, presented a motion to council asking Premier David Eby to make our city safer because there is overwhelming evidence that in and around the province’s supportive housing facilities, there is too much crime and disorder.

We supplied council with evidence which clearly and ­unequivocally shows that in some (not all) of these facilities, there is criminal activity both inside and outside.

We gave direct quotes of Police Chief Del Manak from a Times Colonist article noting how VicPD has seized drugs, weapons and cash from one of the most notorious supportive housing facilities at 844 Johnson and he said it’s “extremely troubling.”

We noted that a woman whose husband was housed and then died at 844 Johnson referred to it as a “kill shelter for dogs.”

We gave other direct quotes from Manak from an interview in which he noted that “assaults, random, stranger on stranger, unprovoked assaults are up” across the province and in Victoria and how this is “creating a sense of fear for many people that they don’t feel safe either in their neighbourhood or coming downtown.”

Our motion stemmed from a discussion I had with the owner of a café who literally has to close her café an hour early each day because a man who was kicked out of a provincial supportive housing facility, but still hanging around the neighbourhood, told her “I will be waiting for you at the end of your shift and I will rape you.”

Instead of jumping on board, to even politely ask our premier to give security and other supports inside and outside the province’s own supportive housing facilities, some councillors said our resolution was “too much hearsay and too much anecdotal evidence,” it’s “not productive,” and it’s “disrespectful and rude.”

I’ve been around politicians of all stripes all my life (including my mother) and I’ve never known one of them to be as fragile as some of my colleagues are making you and your MLAs to be. Clearly my fellow councillors have concluded that my syrupy-sweet approach to asking the premier and the province for help, isn’t to their liking, so let me try a different approach, and I’m only speaking for myself:

Dear Premier David Eby:

Your government policies and the inaction of senior bureaucrats are making my city, the City of Victoria, more dangerous. It appears you are spending vast amounts of money in preparation for an election, hence it only seems fitting that you can throw a few pennies (relatively speaking to billions) our way, to give just a glimmer of hope to Victoria residents and businesses that you care one iota about their safety.

When you put too many people with addictions and mental-health problems into one facility, and your government doesn’t do the basic homework to find out if some of these people are dangerous criminals, then you put the other most vulnerable people inside these facilities at risk. Victoria’s police chief has given us loads of stats showing how dangerous some of these supportive housing facilities are, and for some reason that has no tangible impact on your policies.

As well, this causes much higher crime rates for the neighbourhoods surrounding those facilities. You know it. Your ministers and MLAs know it. Your bureaucrats know it.

Yet you give our city platitudes that one day, “just trust me” and things will get better. You have no difficulty blaming the federal government, while taking no responsibility for your government’s failed policies and complete lack of tangible action to make our neighbourhoods safer.

I doubt you are as fragile as some of my colleagues suggest, so I’m positive you won’t take this personally and just do the very simple tasks that will make our city safer, today.

Yours truly,

Victoria City Councillor

Stephen Hammond