Victoria's courthouse campers on move to shelter

VICTORIA -- Wet, cold and windy nights adjusting tarps and pounding pegs into the soggy ground are about to come to an end for John Bertrim and dozens of others who have slept in tents on the Victoria Law Courts' lawn for months.

See Full Article

Eric Lincoln also said Monday he is getting ready to take down his tent for a move indoors after two months' sleeping outdoors at the courthouse.

Bertrim, his common-law partner Laurel Hanuse and Lincoln are among the first homeless people to volunteer to vacate the bedraggled tent village that sprung up last spring at the courts for a move into a temporary, government-funded shelter at a former Victoria Boys and Girls Club facility.

"You need lots of tent pegs, lots of tarps to make sure your home is secure," said Bertrim, who is 39, noting he's been homeless for the past year.

Tents blow away in the wind, he said.

Lincoln, 44, said he arrived at the camp to be near his street friends after his wife Belinda Jack died in November. He said he's looking for a fresh start after too many bad choices, family break ups and personal losses.

"It's very community oriented here," he said. "Everybody looks after everybody and the community has been very giving."

People regularly arrive with food, clothing and cash, but it hasn't been a complete utopia, with at least one drug overdose death and a stabbing incident that sent one man to hospital and saw police chasing the male suspect through the leafy downtown neighbourhood.

The camp fills the courthouse lawn with all sizes and colours of tents. The City of Victoria installed portable toilets and left a dumpster. A steel drum burns damp wood, emitting clouds of dense smoke that mingles with the constant smell of marijuana.

Starting Tuesday, 40 people will leave the urban campground for warmth, food and help, but not a permanent home.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said 110 people are currently camping at the courthouse grounds, but the $500,000 shelter project can only take 40 people. The British Columbia government is contributing $400,000, Victoria $75,000 and the United Way is contributing $25,000.

Helps said the shelter project includes indoor tents for privacy, three meals a day and services to help people find permanent housing. It is not a drop-in centre, she said.

"There's basically a bedroom set up for everyone," she said.

Helps said Victoria has been working with the government to ensure the remaining courthouse campers can stay at the site, even though the province owns the land.

"We've been working hard with the province to not do anything to the people who are still there except continue to work to try and find housing," she said.

Victoria has been wresting with the issue since a 2008 court ruling allowed people to pitch their tents in city parks when shelters are full.

Helps said the city spends $600,000 annually on staff to clean up parks and police officers who enforce the bylaw that requires people to break camp at 7 a.m.

She said the courthouse camp has put pressure on the city and the province to address the homeless issue in Victoria. Helps said she understands concerns of residents who question placing people with drug and mental health issues near school.

"I feel like the city's been put in a very difficult position because the only vacant building we have happens to be beside a middle school," said Helps.

Opposition New Democrat housing critic David Eby said homelessness is a provincewide issue.

"It is a sad comment on the inadequacy and unavailability of shelters in B.C.," he said. "This is not a problem that is going to go away."

Rich Coleman, B.C.'s minister responsible for housing, was not available for comment, but his ministry's website states that since 2001 the provincial government has invested $4.4 billion to provide affordable housing for low-income individuals, seniors and families.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Death toll from flooding in Japan rises to 50, dozen missing

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO -- Japan's disaster management agency said the death toll from recent flooding has risen to 50 and at least a dozen others are still missing. Pounding rain since late Friday in Japan's southern region of Kyushu has triggered widespread flooding. Source
  • Controversy over airborne transmission of COVID-19 'a tempest in a teapot,' Dr. Bonnie Henry says

    Canada News CBC News
    B.C.'s provincial health officer says the controversy over airborne transmission of COVID-19 has been overblown, after hundreds of scientists signed a letter calling for the World Health Organization to revise its recommendations. In an open letter to the WHO, 239 scientists in 32 countries have reportedly argued smaller particles can carry the novel coronavirus and infect people than what has previously been reported. Source
  • Toronto Symphony Orchestra cancels 2020-21 season, announces plans for smaller events

    Canada News CBC News
    The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has cancelled its previously announced 2020-21 season of concerts and will instead perform in smaller ensembles across the Greater Toronto Area for audience sizes that align with COVID-19 health regulations. Venues for the alternative programming will include the TSO's home, Roy Thomson Hall, the organization said in a statement on Monday. Source
  • North Korea rejects talks ahead of U.S. envoy's arrival in Seoul

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, KOREA, REPUBLIC OF -- North Korea on Tuesday repeated it has no immediate intent to resume dialogue with the United States hours before U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun was to arrive in South Korea for discussions on the stalled nuclear diplomacy. Source
  • Brazil's Bolsonaro tested again for coronavirus after reportedly exhibiting symptoms

    World News CBC News
    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday he had undergone another test for the novel coronavirus after local media reported he had symptoms associated with the COVID-19 respiratory disease, including a fever. Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace that he had just visited the hospital and been tested for the virus, adding that an exam had shown his lungs "clean. Source
  • Brazil's Bolsonaro says he will be tested for COVID-19

    World News CTV News
    Full coverage at CTVNews.ca/Coronavirus Tracking every case of COVID-19 in Canada Scientists warn of overlooked danger from coronavirus-spreading airborne microdroplets Source
  • US$1.2 million bail for driver that hit two Seattle protesters

    World News CTV News
    SEATTLE -- A judge on Monday set a US$1.2 million bail for the man accused of driving a Jaguar on to a closed Seattle freeway and hitting two protesters, killing one and seriously injuring the other. Source
  • U.K. sanctions Russians, Saudis under new Magnitsky Act powers

    World News CBC News
    Britain on Monday announced economic sanctions against individuals and organizations from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and North Korea under new U.K. powers to punish human rights offenders. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the sanctions targeted those behind "some of the notorious human rights violations in recent years. Source
  • Climate change will help more diseases like COVID-19 jump from animals to humans, UN experts say

    World News CBC News
    Land degradation, wildlife exploitation, intensive farming and climate change are driving the rise in diseases that, like the novel coronavirus, are passed from animals to humans, United Nations experts said on Monday. The UN Environment Program (UNEP) and International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) released the report in which they jointly identified seven trends responsible for such diseases, known as zoonotic, calling on governments to take steps to stop future pandemics. Source
  • COVID-19 pandemic threatens to set back battle against AIDS by 10 years, UN warns

    World News CBC News
    The global fight against AIDS was faltering even before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the coronavirus now threatens to put progress against HIV back by 10 years or more, the United Nations said Monday. "The global HIV targets set for 2020 will not be reached," UNAIDS, the agency that co-ordinates the UN's efforts to curb the spread of HIV, said in a report. Source