Considerations for the homeless

March 27, 2020

The City is concerned about the safety and wellbeing of all our residents and recognize there are specific considerations for our most vulnerable.  We have been asked to improve washroom access, increase public sanitation stations, and consider the establishment of a homeless camp.

The City has been in touch with the shelter and BC Housing and have requested they keep us informed as to their needs.  They have advised they have limited their services to emergency shelter and report serving up to 35 people through such.  Consideration for how to properly manage shelter environments is occurring at the provincial level.  We have requested they keep us updated regularly as to their situation.

Through working with various service agencies we understand that the individuals not accessing emergency shelter services are persons whom have been denied access to the facility due to unmanageable behaviours or are uncomfortable in a group environment.  We have been requested to allow these individuals to remain in place as much as possible.  We are analyzing every situation as it presents itself in light of this pandemic and will take steps as is our normal practice to not to increase stress on individuals but rather work with partnering agencies to assist them in improving their current situation.  We have had no communication that there is a population to be served by a camp at this time. 

Unfortunately there has been situations during this crisis where we have had to take action due to partying, fires, and the accumulation of significant amounts of flammable materials.  We will continue to ensure safety and order in our public spaces.

There are public washrooms in the City of which we have increased our sanitation and maintenance: Spirit Square Centre; Sugar Loaf Dog Park; and along the River Walk near the women’s memorial. We have made explicit decisions to maintain these as operational to ensure access for those in need.  We will continue operation of these facilities as long as it does not pose health risks to our staff.

Due to this pandemic we are having difficulty sourcing sanitization supplies.  We are doing what we can to use our limited supplies for facilities that have continued operations.  Unfortunately due to vandalism we do not have sanitation units in the sugar loaf or women’s memorial washroom units.  We have begun discussions regarding where sanitation stations ought to go if we are able to obtain additional units.  

We are working to educate members of the public on the Public Health Officers orders and recommendations through various media including through our Bylaw Enforcement Officers.  Bylaw Staff have developed relationships with and have regular communications with individuals who are vulnerable. 

The homeless population is one of many populations the City is attempting to support at this time. We are relying on the organizations that are charged and resourced to support these individuals to ramp up their resources and clearly identify and communicate where they are not meeting needs. We will continue to work with those agencies and seek the additional supports our community needs.

As with all levels of government and organizations we are continually assessing needs of the community and making the best efforts to respond to evolving circumstances in this crisis.

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