Attendees of a mayoral candidates forum on how to solve homelessness in Greater Victoria packed the First Metropolitan Church, Tuesday. (Kristyn Anthony/News staff)

Homelessness experts challenge Greater Victoria candidates on finding a fix

‘People are dying every week on our streets, and it’s not just the opioid crisis,’ Our Place executive director tells crowd of hundreds

A panel of local experts flipped the script on the region’s mayoral candidates Tuesday taking centre stage to share their ideas on how to solve the growing issue of poverty and homelessness in the Capital Region.

The event, “Solving homelessness with our region’s mayoral candidates” was hosted by Our Place Society and attended by hundreds of people who filled the First Metropolitan Church in Victoria.

Impassioned pleas from those in attendance challenged candidates on how they would take immediate action to house the more than 1,500 people experiencing homelessness in Greater Victoria.

Panelist Don Evans, executive director of Our Place, urged the candidates to work together immediately to build 40 to 50 temporary units of housing so people can “stabilize” and start to think about more long term options.

“People are dying every week on our streets,” Evans said, “and it’s not just the opioid crisis.”

People with mental health issues, brain trauma, financial struggles, health concerns, are “forced to be outside” where they “live in survival mode,” Evans said.

RELATED: Advance voting begins Oct. 10 in Greater Victoria

“All they need is some sort of adequate, affordable housing,” he said, before challenging municipalities to purchase land for modular housing. “The money is there. The missing link is the municipalities.”

Panelist Terry Willis, who is battling stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma and has been homeless for two years after losing his wife to cancer, asked candidates how they intend to help those in a situation similar to his.

“Unfortunately our system is a little flawed when it comes to people that get a disease that keeps them from continuing their life, working and raising their children and paying the rent,” Willis said.

RELATED: Victoria cancer patient denied chemo due to condition of homeless shelter

Representatives from Esquimalt, North Saanich, Saanich, Sidney, Victoria and View Royal answered questions from both the panelists and the public.

Tensions ran high when one attendee pointedly asked Saanich mayor Richard Atwell and Victoria candidate Stephen Hammond where residents of Camp Namegans, a homeless camp that has been forcibly removed from multiple sites in the region, will sleep after the Oct. 12 deadline at their current location.

There are parks where people are welcome to sleep overnight, Atwell said before being asked how the municipality would approach those who cannot or will not leave by the required 9 a.m. time limit.

“With the assistance of police,” Atwell said, to a crowd shouting “shame.”

RELATED: Saanich’s homeless camp ends, as residents plan rally Friday

Catherine Holt, CEO of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce told candidates the average person cannot afford the average house in Victoria anymore.

“Real estate is not housing,” she said, stressing creative solutions are a vital response to housing people, pointing to a recent bylaw in Portland, Oregon allowing for tiny homes on properties within the city.

Evans busted the myth that those experiencing homelessness want to stay near the downtown core, calling on candidates in North Saanich, Sidney and the West Shore to recognize this is a regional problem.

Mayor David Screech agreed calling the current state of affairs a symptom of “years of neglect” on the part of all 13 municipalities, before adding: “We need shelters on the West Shore.”


@kristyn_anthony
kristyn.anthony@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Small python’ found in vacant Cook Street apartment

Snake taken to CRD Animal Shelter to be claimed

Saanich suspends penalty for late bill payments amid COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 has become a financial crisis as well as a health crisis, mayor says

West Shore RCMP arrests one man after ‘bait’ bike stolen

Police arrest a 58-year-old, male suspect

Esquimalt’s Buccaneer Days cancelled due to COVID-19

The pirate-themed fair will take place in 2021

VIDEO: ‘Used gloves and masks go in the garbage,’ says irked B.C. mayor

Health officials have said single-use gloves won’t do much to curb the spread of COVID-19

POLL: Will you be able to make your rent or mortgage payment this month?

With the COVID-19 delivering a devastating blow to the global economy, and… Continue reading

COVID-19: postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Black Press Media ad sparks discussion about value of community newspapers

White Rock resident hopes front-page note shines light on revenue loss during COVID-19 crisis

53 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., four new deaths

B.C. has 498 active confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus

Nanaimo man arrested after allegedly setting house fire

Firefighters arrived to find mobile home ablaze on Barnes Road in Cedar on Thursday

Businesses advised to prepare for federal, B.C. COVID-19 assistance

Canada Revenue Agency portal expected to open next week

Dogs are property, not kids, B.C. judge tells former couple

Court decision made on competing lawsuits over Zeus and Aurora — a pit bull and pit bull cross

B.C. senior gives blood for 200th time, has ‘saved’ 600 lives

There was no cutting of cake for Harvey Rempel but he’s challenging youth to start donating blood

Most Read