central park & 940 caledonia

Sheltering in Central Park & 940 Caledonia (RAP parking lot)

Feedback and NPNA Response: Request to implement a criteria for outdoor sheltering in parks: June 24, 2020

The North Park Neighbourhood Association (NPNA) is concerned about the lack of green space and a further reduction in green space in Victoria’s core neighbourhoods as individuals experiencing homelessness relocate to Central Park for continuous sheltering. The NPNA therefore request that staff provide a report to council with a set of criteria for evaluating outdoor sheltering spaces and an analysis of potential locations using these criteria. These criteria should include:

  • proximity to residential property;
  • proximity to playground structures and sports fields;
  • proximity to outdoor exercise equipment;
  • access to, or availability of hygiene amenities (showers, handwashing, washrooms);
  • availability of increased City staff resources needed for daily regular garbage/paraphernalia pick-up/monitoring;
  • amount of accessible green space in the neighbourhood (taking into account hectares / 1000 residents);
  • equity based analysis; and
  • ability for sheltering spaces to be adequately physically distanced from other shelters and park users.

See the request here.

August 27, 2020: Summary of feedback provided to Mayor and Council in advance of emergency council meeting on August 27, 2020.

August 31, 2020: Letter to Mayor, Council, Parks, Bylaw, Engagement re: Centennial Square closure

September 1, 2020: Letter to the Committee Directors of the Capital Regional Housing and Hospital Committee and BC Housing

from North Park Neighbourhood Association, Fernwood Community Association, Burnside Gorge, Hillside Quadra Action

Requesting Oak Bay Lodge be immediately dedicated for the provision of temporary accommodation and on-site support to individuals from the Capital Region who are experiencing homelessness and living in encampments in the region’s urban core.

September 2, 2020: NPNA Sheltering in Central Park: Feedback and Suggestions in advance of September 3, 2020 council meeting.

September 4, 2020: Summary of September 3 Council Meeting re: City Response on Sheltering During the Pandemic (Thank you to our Community Liaison, Michael Hill for this very helpful summary.)

  • Amendments to sheltering in parks bylaws
  • Authorize up to $165,000 in 2020 funded from contingencies for additional Bylaw Services resources and direct staff to include ongoing annual budget of $491,000 in the draft 2021 financial plan
  • Approve up to $40,161 from the Financial Stability Reserve to facilitate an engagement with people currently sheltering and camping in city’s parks
  • Postponed until Sept. 10 – Direct staff to report back by September 17, 2020 on options for providing managed access to showers, washrooms and temporary shelter for up to 60 individuals during the State of Emergency at the Royal Athletic Park, and options for limiting sheltering at Central Park, including seeking input from BC Housing on the availability of provincial funding and an operator to run the site
  • Postponed until Sept. 10 – Council allocate $94,528 from the Financial Stability Reserve to provide additional policing resources in the City of Victoria for the remainder of 2020

September 9, 2020: Submitted to Mayor and Council: NPNA’s request for a distributed approach to sheltering outdoors in Victoria

Summary of September 10, 2020 Committee of the Whole Motions re: outdoor sheltering

  • D.1.h Motion Arising from the Report: City Response on Sheltering During the Pandemic Motion: Request that BC Housing use of the Save on Foods Memorial Centre until December 31, 2020 for temporary housing with supports. CARRIED
  • D.2.a Additional Policing Resources to Support Public Safety Motion: That Council allocate up to $94,528 from the Financial Stability Reserve* to provide additional policing resources in the City of Victoria for the remainder of 2020, and that Council receive monthly reports on the deployment and its success. CARRIED
  • E.2 Bylaw for Amendment to the Parks Regulation Bylaw Main Motion as amended: That the following bylaw be given first and second readings: 1. Parks Regulation Bylaw, Amendment Bylaw (No. 10) No. 20-102 Amend section 2(b) by renumbering paragraphs (b) to (e) in the proposed section 16B(2) as paragraphs (c) to (f) and inserting a new paragraph (b) as follows: “(b) [no camping] within 8 meters of a playground” CARRIED
  • Motion: That the Bylaw be given third reading as amended: 1. Parks Regulation Bylaw, Amendment Bylaw (No. 10) No. 20-102 CARRIED
  • Public meeting: Tuesday, October 6, 2020, 6-8pm, location TBD. We will be receiving an update from the City of Victoria about the plan for implementing the new bylaws relating to sheltering in parks.
  • Main Motion Arising as amended: That staff be requested to report back within 4 weeks on the impacts (including the impacts on shelter spaces displaced to other locations) of a blanket prohibition of sheltering within the boundaries of the Business Improvement Area, or within an alternative boundary encompassing areas essential to the economic vitality of the City. CARRIED

October 1, 2020: Handout outlining new bylaws, services, and parks where sheltering is permitted.

October 2, 2020: Handout outlining locations within Central Park where sheltering is permitted based on new bylaws.

October 2, 2020: Notice regarding safety during tree pruning

Thursday, October 22, 4-5:30pm: Friendship BBQ at Royal Athletic Park

You’re invited to a Friendship BBQ hosted by the North Park Neighbourhood Association and the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness this Thursday, October 22nd, from 4:00 – 5:30 PM at Royal Athletic Park (1014 Caledonia Ave).

Following COVID-19 precautions, there will be three unique events taking place within the park: Interactive Art, a Community BBQ catered by Jones BBQ, and Panel Discussion (4:30-5:30pm).

The panel discussion theme is Community Connection and Creative Solutions to Homelessness and will take place from 4:30 – 5:30 PM. All are welcome.Facebook event here.

October 20, 2020: Status of Sheltering in Parks: a call for engagement and communication


  • Take action to reduce the overcrowding at Central Park. Enact the distributed model as agreed upon by Council to reduce sheltering to the total of 21 tents for Central Park
  • Establish a timeline for achieving these  actions outlined  and provide updates to the NPNA on a regular (proposed: weekly) basis on the progress made on achieving the timeline objectives
  • Set and communicate a deadline for bringing unhoused individuals in all parks into compliance with the bylaws
  • Provide regular updates to the public on the progress and status of sheltering in all parks, including weekly structure counts and Bylaw priorities
  • Pressure the province to use the Oak Bay Lodge or other facilities for immediate indoor accommodation

November 20, 2020: Update from Bill Eisenhauer (Engagement) re: fencing in the sports fields in Central Park

“Effective today, the sports fields in Central Park are closed for maintenance to get them ready for community recreation and play as part of the scheduled re-opening of the Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre in 2021.

This is an attempt to reduce overcrowding at Central Park and get all shelters into compliance, while also ensuring the sports fields are available for the community in the new year.

Q – Why has new fencing gone up in Central Park? A – The sports fields in Central Park are closed for maintenance to get them ready for community recreation and play as part of the scheduled re-opening of the Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre in 2021. Sports fields are bookable by the community and we need time to get them ready.

Q – How long will the fences be up? A – It will take several months to remediate the sports fields so they can be used for community recreation and play next spring and the fences will remain in place until then.

Q – What about people who are sheltering in the park? A – Sports fields are no-shelter areas under the Parks Regulation Bylaw and there is a new four-metre setback around them to keep these areas clear for recreational activities and maintenance.

New signage has recently been added to parks where sheltering is permitted, including Central Park, to remind everyone of the rules and where sheltering is allowed. Bylaw officers continue to work closely with people sheltering in parks to remind them of the areas they are allowed to shelter in, and make them aware of services available in the community.”

November 20, 2020: North Park requests a renewed commitment to a distributed model for outdoor sheltering

December 2, 2020: Letter to Grace Lore (MLA), Laurel Collins (MP), Murray Langdon (BC Housing): North Park Neighbourhood Association Call For Housing

December 14, 2020: Letter from MLA Grace Lore to Minister Responsible for Housing, David Eby on December

  • excerpt: “neighbours would like to know whether the Province can and will use the powers of the BC State of Emergency to requisition the use of the Save On Foods Memorial Arena, which was providing temporary shelter for 45 individuals. They highlight Dr. Henry’s Dec. 2 update requiring anyone playing sports to stay in their own community and believe that WHL hockey should not be prioritized over indoor shelter.”

December 21, 2020: North Park Neighbourhood Association’s Request to Immediately Open Save On Foods Memorial Arena (SOFMA) for Indoor Housing

December 22, 2020: Response from City of Victoria and BC Housing, MLA Lore

January 4, 2021 Update: Relocation from Central Park to Royal Athletic Park Parking Lot

On December 21, 2020 a rain and snow storm caused extreme flooding in Central Park. The belongings and structures of the ~45 individuals sheltering in Central Park were destroyed and an emergency response was required. After the NPNA’s coverage of the situation (see above) and a letter to BC Housing, Provincial government, and the City of Victoria it was announced at 5pm on December 22 that the individuals sheltering in Central Park would be relocated to the Royal Athletic Park parking lot. The following is a brief summary of the events that have transpired between December 23, 2020 to January 4, 2021.
  • On December 22 the City of Victoria Fire Department, Coalition to End Homelessness, and BC Housing distributed a hot meal, new sleeping bags, and clothing to the individuals in Central Park.
  • On December 22, the City installed fencing around the perimeter of the sheltering area in RAP Parking lot
  • Plans were made to support campers to relocate from Central Park to RAP Parking lot at 1pm on December 23
  • On December 23 the Fire Department dropped off 36 tents at RAP parking lot on December 23
    • The City moved over a portable washroom from Central Park, installed a handwashing station and sharps disposal box
  • Beginning at 1pm on December 23 the Coalition to End Homelessness and Jen Wilde (Extreme Weather Protocol) directed volunteers rallied by the NPNA to build tents in RAP parking lot
  • Campers from Central Park began to move over once they saw the tents going up
  • December 23, Times Colonist: Neighbours help Central Park campers move to Royal Athletic Park lot after flooding
  • December 24-December 30
    • It quickly became apparent that the summer weight tents provided were not adequate, and that both a platform and a heavy duty tarp would be required if occupants had any hope of staying dry and warm-ish
      • Community volunteers and the NPNA with funding from the Red Cross purchased plywood and sourced donated pallets to build platforms for each tent.
      • A heavy duty waterproof tarp was attached to each tent.
    • NPNA began providing stipends to park residents for leadership roles in cleaning the parking lot, liaising with bylaw, and establishing community rules
  • Beginning December 28, Bylaw began working to ensure that everyone who had taken a tent in RAP parking lot was someone who had relocated from Central Park. This process required some working backwards, and has taken several days.
  • Beginning on December 29, daily site meetings were established at 8:30am everyday and will continue until the site is operating smoothly
    • Facilitated by Bylaw, attended by Facilities, Footprints Security, Park resident leaders, NPNA, and occasionally outreach workers and police.
  • December 29, CTV: ‘Everything was flooded’: Victoria to remediate Central Park after storms, campers moved
  • December 29, Times Colonist: Central Park closing Jan. 4 for repairs after flooding; campers moved to parking lot
  • On December 30 the weekly Wednesday @ 2pm circle meeting took place. This is a recurring meeting that has taken place in Central Park, but will now continue in RAP parking lot.
  • December 31, CFAX: Neighbours help flooded campers in Central Park move to Royal Athletic Lot 
  • As of January 4, the City is working with an operator and with funding from BC Housing to implement an immediate solution for a warming tent in the RAP parking lot.
    • The warming tent, due to the existing capacity of the parking lot will only be for the individuals sheltering in the parking lot
    • The warming tent will be open for a limited number of hours each day depending on the capacity of the operator
  • The NPNA continues to advocate for immediate indoor solutions to be made available – we are focusing our efforts on advocating for the immediate opening of the Save on Foods Memorial Arena
  • As of January 4, Central Park will be closed to the public, and to sheltering for remediation.
    • The NPNA will be requesting that Central Park is not re-opened for sheltering and that if sheltering does need to continue, that the RAP parking lot be the only North Park location where outdoor sheltering takes place
    • As of January 4 there are about 9 structures remaining in Central Park. These individuals will have the choice to move to the remaining tents in RAP parking lot or another park

February 19, 2021 – Lessons Learned: Central Park to 940 Caledonia – Relocation Timeline, Volunteer Impact Statements, and Case Studies 

NPNA requests an end to sheltering in Central Park

On January 21, 2021 Council temporarily banned sheltering in Central Park. Council will be revisiting this decision on March 4, 2021.  The NPNA is advocating that Mayor and Council support the staff recommendation brought forward on January 21, 2021 to immediately “add Central Park to the list of parks where sheltering is prohibited.”  

The sheltering that took place in Central Park from May through December of 2020 demonstrated that Central Park is an unsuitable location for both 7pm-7am and 24/7 sheltering. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021, NPNA Board member, Sean Kahil, will be addressing council with a presentation of why Central Park is not suitable for sheltering. You can watch the livestream or find the recording after the meeting is finished here. 

If you would like to submit your own letter requesting that sheltering be permanently banned in Central Park, please feel free to use this letter writing template.

February 25, 2021 Letter: “Request to immediately add Central Park to the list of parks where sheltering is prohibited” 

Submitted by North Park Neighbourhood Association, Masjid-Al Iman Mosque, Quadra Village Community Centre, Hillside Quadra Neighbourhood Action Committee, St. John the Divine, Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, Family Services of Greater Victoria.

This request is also supported by The Inter-Culutral Association of Greater Victoria as demonstrated by this letter from CEO, Jean McRae. 

February 25, 2021 Presentation to Council: End Sheltering in Central Park Presentation

March 18, 2021 Update: At Committee of the Whole on March 18, City Council carried the following motion: 

“That Council instruct the City Solicitor to bring forward bylaw amendments necessary to continue the permanent prohibition on sheltering in Centennial Square, Central Park and Cecelia Ravine Park in time for adoption prior to May 1, 2021, with the prohibition in Central Park being reviewed at a time when the 940 Caledonia Temporary Use Permit expires.”

Based on this motion, we understand that sheltering in Central Park is currently prohibited, and that prior to May 1, 2021 Council will implement amendments to the bylaw that extend this ban past May 1, 2021 and review it again when the Tiny Home Community at 940 Caledonia is no longer in operation. 

A report recommending the 1st, 2nd and 3rd readings of the Parks Regulation Bylaw, Amendment Bylaw (No. 15) 21-049 is on the agenda on April 8, 2021.

On April 8, 2021 Council passed the bylaw to ban sheltering in Central Park. Here’s that wording: “The Bylaw is to amend the Parks Regulation Bylaw to better regulate sheltering in public parks by persons experiencing homelessness, to permanently prohibit sheltering in Centennial Square and Cecelia Ravine parks and to extend temporary prohibition on sheltering in Central Park until September 18, 2022, which is the date on which temporary use permit for emergency housing at 940 Caledonia expires.” 

In addition to this ban, an addition to the bylaw was passed that initiates a review in July 2022 of sheltering in Central Park considering a defined criteria that takes into consideration equity, accessible green space, hygiene amenities, and all other parks where sheltering is prohibited. 

You can watch the discussion starting at 43 minutes here: https://pub-victoria.escribemeetings.com/Meeting.aspx?Id=e81e4ade-0b83-45a2-bafa-8c2765b00c35&Agenda=Merged&lang=English&Item=21&Tab=attachments