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Victoria officials sweep homeless community for 2nd consecutive day

Tents were back Friday morning, though noticeably fewer than earlier in the week

Victoria police and bylaw returned to Pandora Avenue for a second consecutive morning Friday (May 17) moving out those living there.

Early Thursday, law enforcement cordoned off a portion of the 900 block and cleared out tents and belongings from the sidewalk in what Our Place described as the largest sweep they’d seen outside their shelter.

Tents were back Friday morning, though noticeably fewer than earlier in the week.

Officers returned Friday asking residents to pack up tents, but in a manner those staying there say was more typical then the previous day.

Responding to a social media video of tents set up on the block on Friday morning, representatives of the anti-poverty group Our Place said “it’s a visual representation of a massive call for help that is being ignored.”

“If you don’t provide a place for people to go - with the supports they need to be brought back into health and community - what do you expect?,” the agency said.

As of 10 a.m. there were less than eight tents left up on the block in front of Our Place and bylaw officers were continuting to make the rounds with two Victoria police officers.

The Our Place CEO said its plan to get dozens of people off the street by the end of the year may be in tatters after the sweeps.

“What happened this morning, and I actually stood and watched it for two hours myself, was not a standard routine operation. We saw more people cleared off Pandora this morning, than we have literally seen for years,” said Julian Daly said, who was not informed by the city about the sweep.

He said just yesterday there were about 50 tents along the street of people who receive help and support from Our Place and a number of other support organizations that operate in the area. After the sweep, just three tents remained.

It’s been reported that at a press conference at Victoria City Hall, Mayor Marianne Alto said the sweep was routine.

“Bylaw do come every day to Pandora, a lot more most days and once they’ve left, the vast majority of tents are still there. They tend to ask people to take down tents when they’re blocking the pavement, or safety issues or something like that. And people do. But the vast majority of tents are left standing once they left each day. That was not the case this morning,” he said.

Last week, Our Place announced that they are working to get everyone who was living on Pandora Avenue by using an individualized approach to help find the right treatments and housing for everyone by the end of the year, and they have heard heard prior support from the city about the initiative.

In a recent survey they did with Pandora residents, they found that 95 per cent of people are currently struggling with their mental health, 85 per cent have untreated physical ailments, and 39 per cent are currently interested in accessing treatment programs.

“What this does now is they don’t come back, and most probably won’t. Now we’ve lost contact with those people who were on Pandora, and we knew what it would take to get them off,” Daly said.

“Now our street outreach team, which is only two people, try and reconnect with as many of those as possible, but when people are dispersed over large areas, it’s going to be very difficult to do that. There’ll be many of those people we then lose contact with completely. So I think that’s unfortunate because there was a clear pathway of Pandora for for many of those folks. I think that’s been compromised today.”

— with a file from Mark Page

Bailey Seymour

About the Author: Bailey Seymour

After graduating from SAIT and stint with the Calgary Herald, I ended up at the Nanaimo News Bulletin/Ladysmith Chronicle in March 2023
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