– For Immediate Release –
Homeless People Accuse City Councilors of Making Their Problems Worse
Survey Demonstrates Frustration with City Policies that Marginalize and Persecute Street Community
September 23, 2010, Victoria – In a recent survey of over 100 members of the street community conducted by the Victoria Coalition Against Poverty, homeless people criticized the City for making their problems worse instead of better. Plans to gentrify Pandora Green and to criminalize anyone camping on the boulevard weigh heavily on people who say they have no other place to go. Other responses consistently cited included concerns over police violence, inadequacy of services being provided and the stigmatization of poverty.
“We are treated like sub-humans,” said one survey respondent “[if people are displaced] where will we go? The problem will just pop up somewhere else, it’s not going to solve anything.”
Many of the people interviewed reported being harassed and assaulted by police officers. They spoke of being kicked by police who wake them up every morning and throw their belongings in the garbage when they aren’t looking.
“All they do is push us and push us,” said one survey participant. “Stop handing out fines to homeless people, what’s the point of fining someone who doesn’t have any money?”
In 2009 the City of Victoria lost a decision at the Supreme Court and was forced to recognize homeless people’s right to camp on public land. Under the auspices of traffic safety the city is proposing a new bylaw to subvert this judgment and re-criminalize homeless people by prohibiting them from sleeping in the popular location outside Our Place on Pandora Boulevard. City council also approved a $250,000 construction project to install a concrete pathway, sprinklers, hard benches and bright lights to discourage people from congregating there.
“This bylaw just gives police more power to criminalize the city’s most marginalized residents,” said VCAP spokesperson Tamara Herman. “You can’t police a poverty problem away”.
The current council committed to resolving the city’s homelessness crisis when it took office. Victoria continues to be one of the wealthiest cities in North America with no fixed site needle exchange and the encampment on the 900 block of Pandora continues to grow. Homeless people insist that the only way to resolve the issues created by poverty and addiction is to provide counseling, health care and supportive housing to help them back onto their feet.
– 30 –
For Immediate Release
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2010:
COALITION OF ANTI-POVERTY GROUPS OPPOSES PROPOSED STREETS AND TRAFFIC BYLAW AMENDMENT AT CITY HALL
Groups demand a moratorium on evictions of tenters on Pandora Green
September 21, 2010, Victoria – Five anti-poverty organizations will unite at City Hall on Thursday to demand that Victoria’s City Council withdraw its proposed amendment to the streets and traffic bylaw.
The Action Committee of People with Disabilities, the Committee to End Homelessness, Harm Reduction Victoria, the Society of Living Intravenous Drug Users and the Victoria Coalition Against Poverty have called on their members to speak out at the City Council meeting on Thursday.
The amendment bans camping on boulevards and medians. It would force the City residents tenting at night on the boulevard of Pandora Street’s 900-block to camp elsewhere or be subject to police interventions.
All five groups, whose membership includes past and present street-involved community members, demand a moratorium on any City initiative that will forcibly displace people who spend the night on Pandora Green.
Date: Thursday, September 23, 2010
Time: 6:30 pm
Place: City Hall, Pandora Street Entrance
Media representatives from all five organizations will be available for interviews
For more information:
Renée Ahmadi, Victoria Coalition Against Poverty – 250-704-9665
Shane Calder, Harm Reduction Victoria – 250-589-4781
Tamara Herman, Victoria Coalition Against Poverty – 250-857-9768
Heather Hobbs, Harm Reduction Victoria – 250-477-8546
Joanne Neubauer, Action Committee of People with Disabilities- 250-881-1936
Victoria looking to give busy boulevard’s tent city the boot
Victoria — From Thursday’s Globe and Mail Published on Wednesday, Sep. 01, 2010 10:31PM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, Sep. 01, 2010 11:46PM EDT
To Victoria’s street community, the kilometre-long stretch of manicured turf and towering shade trees along Pandora Avenue is the perfect place to take advantage of a court decision allowing homeless people to pitch their tents in public parks.
To the City of Victoria, Pandora Green is neither a park nor a public area, but a road allowance next to a busy street where the mixture of speeding motorists and overnight campers has become an unacceptable safety hazard.
That’s the logic behind a new City of Victoria bylaw aimed at putting an end to an ongoing tent city that has materialized on the boulevard on a nightly basis this summer.
“It’s not safe to have a campsite next to a road where there’s 15,000 cars a day,” Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said Wednesday.
“If people don’t want to use the housing and support services available to them, they can still choose to camp in parks, that’s part of our bylaw, but the boulevard is no place to be setting up tents.”
Two years ago, the B.C. Supreme Court struck down a city bylaw prohibiting camping in public parks, saying the city had an obligation to allow temporary shelters if permanent shelters were unavailable.
The city later passed an amendment limiting the hours of camping to 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
The bylaw, to be introduced Thursday morning, would prohibit camping on public road allowances, including all boulevards and medians, “between sunrise and sunset the next day.”
Anywhere between 30 and 60 people a night have been exercising their right to camp on the boulevard in recent months. Many of them suffer from substance abuse or mental-health problems and choose to sleep outdoors.
The highest concentration is in the 900-block of Pandora Avenue outside Our Place homeless shelter, a $15-million facility that’s open Monday through Friday.
Renee Ahmadi of the Victoria Coalition Against Poverty blamed the problem on a shortage of long-term support for people with addiction and mental-health issues and the lack of a fixed-site needle exchange or safe-consumption site for intravenous drug users.
“What we really need is a safe-consumption site,” she said. “The people on Pandora have created what feels to them like the best solution. They’ve created their own safe consumption site.”
Ms. Ahmadi said anti-poverty activists plan to hold a press conference at city hall prior to Thursday’s meeting and demand that the campers be allowed to stay put.
City and police officials have expressed frustration at the large number of emergency shelter beds – up to 40 a night – that remain empty while the tent city flourishes. Those include a number of spaces at the Church of St. John the Divine, a low-barrier shelter – dogs, shopping carts allowed – about a block away from the campsite.
In the last 18 months, three members of the local street community have died traffic-related deaths in the immediate area.
“It’s a busy area and it’s getting busier with foot traffic,” said Victoria Police Sergeant Grant Hamilton. “It’s only a matter of time before someone else gets killed.”
City staff have advised the new anti-camping bylaw can be given final reading 24 hours after it is introduced. However, Mr. Fortin said council may hold off on immediate approval in order to hear from concerned community groups.