What will it take to fix our park?
A recent heartfelt letter described a homeless woman’s hard times and requested greater public understanding of and sympathy for the plight of the homeless. I am trying to make her letter fit with some recent Beacon Hill Park experiences.
My wife and I, a few days ago, at the supper hour, were walking near the playground in the centre of the park. We heard a man, walking up one of the park paths, talking loudly to himself about raping women. As he walked past us, he stopped and proposed to rape my wife. This really happened.
This morning, a buddy and I walking in the park were flagged by a woman who had just fled down the drive leading to the top of Beacon Hill. She had been accosted on the hilltop by a man who made aggressive and threatening verbal approaches. This really happened.
I live beside the park and hear countless stories like these from park users about the realities of “sharing” the park with campers who, owing to mental challenges and/or drug addiction and/or violent and predatory dispositions and a lack of social skills, are leaving park visitors unbelieving, shocked and scared.
People are afraid to walk in and use Beacon Hill Park. Again: this is Victoria and people are afraid and reluctant to walk in and use Beacon Hill Park.
Claiming that only 25 per cent of the park is available for homeless camping and that campers have been restricted from “ecologically sensitive” areas is embarrassing political sophistry.
What about “humanly sensitive” areas?
In other words, please don’t claim that you’ve reduced the overall geographic impact by three-quarters and expect anyone to feel better.
It’s way past time for mayor and council to acknowledge that allowing utterly unmanaged (and probably unmanageable) park camping was, and remains, a terrible mistake — one for which the wider community of park lovers and users, and the city’s self-image and spirit, are now paying and will continue to pay a very high price for a very long time.
Yes, permanent housing is the long-range goal, but some Plan B needs to be imposed immediately — and there are several available. At a minimum, relocate all campers to the very large playing field adjacent to the park’s Mile Zero corner, accompanied by various service trailers for basic needs-meeting, and with very firm social management.
Or will it take a rape or other violence before the city admits that the current arrangement is a horrible misstep?
Tent cities vs. human rights
Years ago, people with mental challenges or addictions were lodged in a facility called Glendale in Saanich. People started to complain about the notion that human rights were being violated by keeping people there.
So the government yielded to the pressure and released the tenants onto the street, saying that they would all be cared for. That did not happen. Now we see the result. Rampant overdose deaths, decimated parks, theft from local residences, and hostile confrontations.
There are a lot of sad stories about many of the homeless, and my heart goes out to them. But there are a number of the homeless who are taking advantage of this situation.
There is rampant abuse of our parks.
People are being moved into reconfigured motels at the taxpayers expense, and when they can’t abide by the rules, they go back onto the street.
It is not working. Someone has to take charge. The homeless population must be examined to determine their needs. If they are unable to function, they should be housed in a facility for whatever help they need.
The criminals need to be identified and dealt with appropriately. The rest, who are willing to receive the help they need, work towards being responsible and productive, and abiding by the rules, should be monitored.
No one in the government seems willing to take on the responsibility, and the situation just gets worse and worse. And I wonder if a study has been done to find out how many of the homeless here are from out of province.
Dog owners, please respect others
Beacon Hill Park has at least three signs that say dogs aren’t allowed in certain areas of the park. These areas are shown in red with a “You are here” arrow. The signs are for the protection of wildlife but inconsiderate dog owners ignore them.
I have noticed dog owners ignore these signs, walking right past them with their dogs. I have noticed dogs going around in the park without leashes.
I once saw a dog run into the road while chasing a bird, and the owner was barely able to save her dog from getting hit by a car. I have seen an off-leash dog try to swim in Goodacre Lake and chase the ducks.
Last month, my dad confronted a family who brought their dog where it wasn’t allowed. The mother claimed they hadn’t known that. I quietly pointed out there was a sign by the crosswalk (by the giant watering can) and the mother said in a sneering voice, “Well, not everyone sees what you see.”
The family had ice cream cones from the Beacon Drive-In, and to get into the main park, they most likely would have walked right past the sign.
This led to an argument and my father emailing animal control. I don’t think anything happened.
If dog owners won’t follow the rules, they shouldn’t be allowed in the park at all.
We love to read, and we love to share
What an amazing army of pleasant and helpful, and most probably exhausted, volunteers involved in this event!
I can’t help thinking the response might have been overwhelming. The facts that Victorians love to read and are generous in sharing their love were fully evident.
Thank you so much to all the organizers, volunteers and participants, and Russell Books, for ensuring the success of this endeavour.
Best vehicular ballet, called the book drive
A huge shout-out to the Times Colonist, Russell Books and all the splendid volunteers for organizing and participating in the best vehicular ballet I’ve ever been a part of (also known as Book Drive 2020).
Everyone was so cheerful, it was a pleasure to support this effort. Special kudos to Russell Books for stepping up to purchase what will surely be a massive amount of books, even for them.
Thanks also to the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and Helijet for their cooperation. I so appreciate being a part of this community!
Slowing down can test patience
Reducing speed limits to 40 km/h is a good idea but the big question is, who will enforce it?
Many streets especially here in Oak Bay are 40 and some at 30 but if you drive those speeds you will certainly have some impatient driver trying to push you off the road.
Setting the stage for crashes and deaths
Re: “Beware Victoria’s latest experiment,” commentary, Åug. 7.
Steve Wallace’s critique of the Humboldt Street and proposed Richardson Street lane patterns is crucial reading.
As a cyclist, and motorist, I believe this to be a setup for future crashes and deaths, very unsafe. I take great pleasure in frequently cycling on Richardson, daylight and dark, such a sense of freedom.
I will never risk Humboldt.
Using the wonderful system of lanes we have requires a defensive cycling approach as it is, with variation in cycling and motorist courtesy, along with much increased traffic of both types.
I am registering my fear, disagreement, and state of being confounded by the plans.
To get to run the city, you should live in it
Mayor Lisa Helps is onto something in suggesting a residency requirement for housing services.
Perhaps she could expand her thinking to include a residency requirement for Victoria's city councillors.
We might get more councillors who listen to their constituents if they lived in the same community.
City auditor general is desperately needed
The federal government has an independent auditor general’s office, as does most provinces, and most larger Canadian cities including Vancouver.
By the look of Victoria council’s mid-year financial effort to deal with as much as a $17.5 million shortfall, Victoria also needs an auditor general to enhance council’s ability to be accountable for $300 million in public funds.
Such an office would periodically issue reports on different aspects of city spending and management. It would identify things that could be improved in a way the city’s internal audit team and the annual external financial audit could not.
Rather than hiring two highly paid staff for an office of equity, diversity and inclusion when there’s existing human resources staff, or deferring 9.5 other positions until next budget, or proceeding with a skateboard and bike skills park — an auditor would offer opportunities for cost savings.
It’s baffling that the recent mid-year update argues — see page 2, paragraph 5 — that the property tax revenue stream will not change the budget and revenue or surplus this year.
At a time when half our tax base has disappeared, a strong dose of fiscal reality is desperately needed at Victoria council.
Chair, Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria
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