Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps was joined by Mary Warner, a sign language interpretur, during her daily update on April 3. (Facebook)

Victoria fills more than 100 motel rooms with homeless population

Mayor says staffing is the biggest issue impacting opening of Royal Athletic Park

More than 100 motel rooms have been filled with people who were previously sleeping outside in Victoria.

Mayor Lisa Helps made the announcement during her daily update on April 3, stating 102 rooms were filled with single people and couples to help get the vulnerable population inside during the pandemic.

The city announced on March 23 that Topaz Park and Royal Athletic Park would be used to help support physical distancing for people experiencing homelessness. Since then many tents have moved into Topaz Park, but Royal Athletic — which will be used to house people in need of addictions support — has yet to open, as more and more tents pop up on Pandora Avenue.

READ ALSO: Victoria fears people would take advantage of free parking, votes to keep fees in place

Helps said Royal Athletic Park is being run by BC Housing so she could not give a definitive date as to when it would open, but said the biggest issue is staffing.

“They need a tremendous amount of people to work at that site and I keep saying where are the job descriptions,” she said. “There are a lot of people who are out of work and we’d love to be able to post them so I know that’s all being worked on right now.”

Helps also provided some clarity on the announcement from April 2 regarding the city planting 50,000 to 75,000 food seedlings in its greenhouses to help with food security during this uncertain time.

“Parks staff will produce 80 per cent of the number of hanging baskets — because of course, we know beauty is important through this period of time as well — and the 20 per cent of the time that would have gone into hanging baskets will go towards supporting food security,” she said.

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

Helps added there would be no new staff hired to carry out the work or any other budgetary impacts. The food will be distributed to organizations and people throughout the city, although the details of who and how are still being worked out.

Federal updates:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government will be providing $100 million to food banks across the country as Canadians face widespread layoffs and financial uncertainty. Trudeau said during a morning news briefing on Friday (April 3) that the funds will help the “urgent food needs” of Canadians struggling to put meals on the table as they wait for the suite of federal emergency benefits to kick in.

Provincial updates:

As of April 3, B.C.’s health officials announced 53 new confirmed cases of the virus bringing the total number of active confirmed cases to 498.

The province has seen 641 people recovery from the virus, and a total of 31 deaths — two of which were on Vancouver Island.

With files from Ashley Wadhwani



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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