Lessons from Cridge Park must not be ignored

The whole idea of a tent city at Topaz Park for the homeless is ludicrous! I’m pretty sure that none of the staffers who made this suggestion, nor the mayor herself, experienced the nightmare of the tent city at Cridge Park in 2005.

I did. It was a horrific mess that never should have been allowed to exist for even one week let alone the many weeks it was allowed to go on.

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At the time, I was a Victoria police officer who had to visit the site daily with several other officers, along with bylaw officers and, on occasion, health officials.

It was a muddy, disgusting mess, littered with needles, human feces, garbage, rotting food, open fires and animal waste. It was a magnet for criminals, one of whom was running a stolen-property operation out of his tent with items stolen from cars parked nearby.

Drug use was rampant and there were overdoses and major medical issues on a constant basis. There were fights and assaults.

It attracted every new drifter and homeless person who arrived in Victoria, and it became known across Canada and became a destination point for people looking to “live free.”

We even discovered a 13-year-old runaway from Toronto living in the park and returned her to her parents.

There is no place in Victoria for a tent city. You can’t manage the multitude of issues that come along with it, and it will cost thousands of dollars a day in resources to manage, at the very least.

A security guard isn’t enough and I can’t imagine any service provider wanting to take on such a ridiculous idea. They have enough challenges just running their own facilities. And what about the residents in the area? They shouldn’t have to tolerate this.

Mayor Lisa Helps and her council need to take a good, long, realistic look at this decision. It’s a bad idea, and they have absolutely no concept of what a real tent city looks like and the nightmare it is for police, parks personnel and the many other city departments that would be required to deal with the daily problems.

Rick Anthony


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