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

Just Posted

VIDEO: Man killed in shooting at Abbotsford bank

Police believe incident on Thursday night to be targeted

Online fundraiser to cover funeral costs of motorcyclist killed in collision

Larry Nizio, 37, died after crash with pickup truck Oct. 12 in Abbotsford

ABBY ELECTION HUB: Everything you need to know in one spot

Interviews, Q&As, info on how to vote, stories on the issues and candidate bios all in one place.

Brothers who shot to fame with Jackson 5 song perform in Abbotsford

Melisizwe Brothers have performed on Ellen and America’s Got Talent

Alzheimer Society presents Family Caregiver Series

Program in Abbotsford runs for three Saturdays, starting Oct. 20

B.C. NDP retreats again on empty-home tax for urban areas

Rate reduced for all Canadians, dissident mayors to get annual meeting

Jets score 3 late goals to beat Canucks 4-1

Winnipeg ends three-game Vancouver win streak

Canada not sending anyone to Saudi business summit

Sources insist Ottawa never intended to dispatch a delegation this time around

Two B.C. cannabis dispensaries raided on legalization day

Port Alberni dispensaries ticketed for “unlawful sale” of cannabis

Earthquake early-warning sensors installed off coast of B.C.

The first-of-its kind warning sensors are developed by Ocean Networks Canada

VPD ordered to co-operate with B.C. police watchdog probe

According to the IIO, a court is ordering Vancouver police to co-operate with an investigation into a fatal shooting

B.C. woman looks to reduce stigma surrounding weed-smoking moms

Shannon Chiarenza, a Vancouver mom of two, started weedmama.ca to act as a guide for newcomers to legal cannabis, specifically mothers

B.C. teen gives away tickets to Ellen Degeneres show, plans O Canada welcome

The Grade 9 student wanted to give away tickets in the spirit of inclusivity

Most Read