Housing Minister Rich Coleman during an announcement in November for 2

Housing Minister Rich Coleman during an announcement in November for 2

Tent cities need faster shut down responses to prevent growth: Coleman

Housing Minister Rich Coleman reflects on how Victoria's tent city was handled, and encampments still ongoing across B.C.

B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman says he learned valuable lessons from the government’s handling of a homeless camp on the lawn at Victoria’s courthouse, and one of those lessons is acting more quickly to provide housing for people who are looking for it.

Victoria’s camp saw more than 100 homeless people build a village of tents, fences and fires on provincial property in the middle of an affluent, tree-lined downtown neighbourhood.

RELATED: Remediation of Victoria’s tent city begins

Neighbours complained of rats and used syringes, while the residents of the so-called tent city and homeless activists said the camp was a real-life snapshot of the lack of shelter space and housing for vulnerable people.

“The one lesson we learned is, as we dealt with some on these tent cities, is early intervention and understanding the clientele,” Coleman said in a recent telephone interview. “I think we maybe could have done a better job on that in Victoria.”

The first tents arrived at the courthouse lawn in November 2015 and the final tent did not come down until mid-August of this year. The government applied twice to the B.C. Supreme Court for injunctions to shut down the camp.

Coleman said he doesn’t advocate breaking up the camps without being able to provide housing, but in Victoria new people kept arriving at the tent city as the government found shelter space for campers.

“Part of it is knowing and understanding your clientele, but also moving quickly, which we did in Victoria to find facilities and space for people but we were seeing … an influx of people who were back filling what we were doing,” he said.

B.C. ended up spending more than $25 million to purchase and renovate properties to provide more than 190 spaces for homeless people in Victoria, including shelter and living units at a former youth jail, a community centre and a former seniors’ care facility.

“I think part of it is to make sure you are always looking at your inventory to see what might be out there if you have a spike,” Coleman said.

Coleman said recent downturns in provincial economies in Western Canada have caused a rise in homeless numbers in B.C.

“In the last 18 months we’ve seen an influx of people into the province who are ending up homeless because they are coming here without knowing whether they have a job or not,” Coleman said. “We have seen an uptick and it does create a challenge for us.”

RELATED: A history of tent cities across the province

The Housing Ministry’s website says B.C. committed $855 million this year to support the construction of 5,000 units of affordable rental housing.

Since 2001, B.C. has spent $4.9 billion to provide affordable housing for low income individuals, seniors and families, it says. These funds include the most recent boost of 68 housing projects, financed through a $516-million housing fund that was announced by Premier Christy Clark in September.

 

The Canadian Press

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

Just Posted

Photo courtesy of the Mission RCMP.
Mission RCMP request public’s assistance in search for missing man

William Joshua Bowles last seen March 4 at Haven in the Hollow shelter

The incident occurred at approximately 10 a.m. amid heavy rains on the 29900 Block of the highway, near the Silverdale community. Shane MacKichan photo.
VIDEO: Late-night rollover crash on Lougheed Highway in Mission sends 2 to hospital

Jaws of Life used; patients sustained non-life threatening injuries

Highway 1 eastbound has one lane closed as crews worked to clear up an accident earlier this afternoon.
Accident shuts down one lane eastbound on Highway 1 in Abbotsford

Major congestion between Riverside Road and Sumas exit

Alan Pryor in 2015, during the Agassiz Fire Department’s 70th year. (Greg Laychak/The Observer)
Agassiz fireman celebrates 51 years at the hall

Al Pryor has been a key member in the Agassiz Fire Department since he was 16

Scales of Justice
Court awards woman $167K after vehicle was struck by White Rock taxi in 2016

Plaintiff’s knee injuries and resulting chronic pain disability are genuine, judge rules

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of dead B.C. Hells Angels prospect to be divided between wife, secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Most Read