sheltering in parks


SHELTERING IN PARKS

Weekly Update

Each week, we keep track of the communications we receive about the sheltering taking place in Central Park. Please email executivedirector@npna.ca to contribute your comments, questions, concerns, and feedback.. View past weekly updates here. 
Updated October 20, 2020 
Number of shelters
  • October 12 – 107
  • October 13 – 94
  • October 14 – 93
  • October 15 – 104
  • October 16 – 99
  • October 17 – 98
  • October 18 – 99
  • October 20 – 94
Central Park facilities, services updates Weekly Park Meetings:
  • Central Park Healing Circle, Wednesdays @ 4pm between the baseball diamonds. Led by Rose Henry. Open to all 
  • Sheltering in Parks ad-hoc working group, Thursdays @ 4pm in RAP.  Led by the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, attended by service providers, occasional City staff, NPNA, housed and unhoused residents. Open to all.
Park facilities, service updates
  • An additional portable washroom has been added at the East entrance (near Princess)
  • Signage has been posted at all park entrances reflecting bylaws and map of red and green zones in Central Park
  • Bylaw has agreed to increase garbage and recycling receptacles and pick ups in Central Park
  • There is an Info tent (blue tent between baseball diamonds) where community members can ask questions, and drop off donations. 
Update from City of Victoria Bylaw meeting update from Monday, October 19, 2020 with Shannon Perkins
  • Central Park remains #1 priority park for Bylaw department
  • This week’s priority will include having the “tougher conversations” with people about bringing them into compliance with the bylaws.
  • Bylaw continues to tag and remove structures in Central Park
    • Pink tags: structures that appear to be for storage/abandoned/ or generally not used for sheltering.
    • White tags: violation of bylaw locations
  • Over the past week, Central Park has been reduced by 23 structures (41 City wide)
    • 6 loads of refuse were also removed from Central Park over the weekend
    • (Shannon elaborated a bit on what tagging and removal involves. Anytime a structure is removed, it takes considerable labour and time to physically move, inventory, and impound all of the items. They are doing this as quickly as they are able)
  • Based on Bylaw’s maps, there are 59 occupied shelters in Central Park right now
  • note: Bylaw is ensuring that no new structures move into Central Park. Anytime someone tries, they are told the park is at capacity. If you notice someone new moving into Central Park, please report that to Bylaw.
  • starting this week Bylaw will be sending the NPNA weekly structure counts for parks and Bylaw’s weekly priorities. (will forward when received, and include on website)
  • Current needs in the park are
    • waterproof tarps
    • waterproof totes
    • waterproof ground sheets
    • warm layers
    • sleeping bags
    • elevated sleeping cots

Over the past several months, North Park has seen an increase in the number of individuals sheltering in parks, mainly Central Park. There are no designated campgrounds in Victoria and overnight camping is not permitted in Victoria parks. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health directive to “shelter in place” people experiencing homelessness can shelter in City parks (with a few exceptions) while following some basic rules. The 7am-7pm bylaw which required unhoused individuals to pack up during the day has been relaxes, and at this time shelters can remain up during the day. These are the rules outlined on the City of Victoria webpage for sheltering in City parks.
  • Sheltering is not permitted in environmentally sensitive areas, playgrounds, sports fields, flower beds, cemeteries, footpaths, and roads within a park
  • No fires, open flames or flammable gas canisters are permitted
  • Do not attach shelters to trees or shrubs, park benches, lamp posts or other structures
  • Do not remove tree branches or use City property to construct shelters
  • Keep your shelter site clean and properly dispose of all garbage
  • Be more than four metres (12 feet) away from another occupied tent or structure

Neighbourhood Contacts

If you are concerned about an activity in a park, please contact the appropriate department or organization from the list below. We also invite you to copy the NPNA (info@npna.ca, npna@npna.ca or executivedirector@npna.ca) so that we can keep track of requests relating to sheltering in City parks.
  • City of Victoria: Bylaw Services
    • To report a bylaw violation or submit a service request (parks, sidewalks, etc) you can use the online reporting tool on the City of Victoria website
    • Contact Manager of Bylaw Services: Shannon Perkins at sperkins@victoria.ca or 250-361-0215
  • City of Victoria: Parks Department
    • To request maintenance or clean-up in a park (garbage, needles, etc), contact the City of Victoria Parks Office at parks@victoria.ca or 250-361-0600
    • Email Director of Parks, Recreation, and Facilities: Thomas Soulliere at tsoulliere@victoria.ca
    • Request a needle pick up from SOLID Outreach by calling 250-298-9497.
  • City of Victoria: Public Works
    • To request removal of items that have been illegally dumped by contact Public Works at 250-361-0400 or email pw@victoria.ca.
  • Victoria Police
    • To report a crime in progress or an immediate threat to safety: CALL 911
    • To report a crime or traffic complaint after it has occurred, you can use the online reporting tool 
    • Or, you can call VicPD’s non-emergency line at 250-995-7654
    • Contact Community Resource Officer: Mark Jenkins at 250-888-6491
  • VIHA Encampment Outreach Team
    • To request support from the VIHA Outreach team which includes a Nurse and a Mental Health Crisis Response Counsellor between 8am-8pm call the outreach phone number: 250-216-9119
    • Provides on site medical assistance, COVID tests, flu shots (when available), mental health and crisis intervention and support, assistance filling out BC Housing forms.
  • City of Victoria: Mayor and Council

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.

Public Meeting to discuss sheltering in Central Park: Tuesday, August 4, 2020: 6-8pm at Royal Athletic Park. See the agenda here and the meeting notes 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 

Public Meeting: Monday, September 7, 2020, 6-8pm at RAP.

You MUST register to attend this event. Register, and view agenda on Eventbrite here. 

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 playgroundCARRIED
  • 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

Public meeting: Tuesday, October 6, 2020, 6-8pm, Royal Athletic Park

We will be receiving an update on sheltering in parks from Shannon Perkins, Bylaw Director with the City of Victoria. Also in attendance will be North Park Council liaison Councillor Marianne Alto, and community liaison Michael Hill. During this meeting we will receive an update from the City about the plan for working with the campers in Central Park to bring everyone into compliance with the new bylaws. You can see the new bylaws, services, and parks where sheltering is permitted in this handout.

Covid safety precautions will be followed closely for this in person meeting:

  • attendance will be limited to 50
  • sanitize hands upon arrival
  • masks are recommended
  • maintain a 2 m / 6 foot distance from all individuals not in your “bubble.
  • if attendance exceeds 50 people, we will separate into two groups. (One group will stay in the grandstand behind the baseball diamond, and one group will be in the grandstand at the Cook Street end of the park. Shannon Perkins will be bringing another City representative who can provide the same update to the second group as well. Both areas are covered in case of rain)

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.

Recommendations: 
  • 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