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

  • Giuliani associate convicted of campaign finance crimes

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- A New York jury convicted a former associate of Rudy Giuliani on Friday of charges that he made illegal campaign contributions to influence U.S. politicians and advance his business interests. The verdict was returned in Manhattan federal court, where Lev Parnas was on trial for more than two weeks as prosecutors accused him of using other people's money to pose as a powerful political broker and cozy up to some of the nation's star Republican political figures. Source
  • Chief of Manitoba First Nation charged with sexual assault, child luring

    Canada News CTV News
    WINNIPEG - The chief of a Manitoba First Nation has been charged with sexual assault and child luring, RCMP announced on Friday. The RCMP said on social media that Little Grand Rapids First Nation Chief Raymond Keeper, 65, was arrested on Thursday. Source
  • Royal Caribbean announces nine-month world cruise

    World News CTV News
    It would've been unthinkable 12 months ago as the cruise industry reeled from the effects of COVID, but one operator is now offering an epic new voyage that will last nine months and take travelers to more than 150 destinations. Source
  • EU unconvinced by Polish arguments on rule of law changes

    World News CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- Polish arguments that fundamental judicial changes the country has made would not undermine the European Union on Friday failed to convince key bloc leaders who said that the withholding of billions in EU recovery funds would likely continue unless Warsaw falls back into line. Source
  • Crown contemplating charges in toppling of statues at Manitoba legislature

    Canada News CTV News
    Winnipeg - The Winnipeg Police Service has sent the findings of its investigation into the toppling of two statues on the Manitoba legislative grounds on Canada Day to the Crown attorney’s office to determine if charges will be laid. Source
  • U.S. Supreme Court will hear challenge to Texas ban on most abortions, but law remains in effect

    World News CBC News
    The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a challenge by President Joe Biden's administration and abortion providers to a restrictive Texas law that imposes a near-total ban on abortion, and set the date for arguments in the case for Nov. Source
  • Luxembourg to become first country in Europe to legalize cannabis

    World News CTV News
    Luxembourg is set to become the first European nation to legalize the growing and use of cannabis, the government announced in a statement on Friday. Under the new legislation, adults over 18 in Luxembourg will be allowed to use cannabis, and to grow up to four plants per household, which would make it the first country in Europe to fully legalize the production and consumption of the drug. Source
  • Appeal for B.C. woman convicted in 8-year-old daughter's death dismissed

    Canada News CTV News
    Warning: Disturbing content. VANCOUVER -- The appeal of a B.C. mother convicted of second-degree murder in the death of an eight-year-old girl has been dismissed. Lisa Batstone learned the decision Friday relating to the suffocating death of her daughter, Teagan. Source
  • What are prop guns and how are they dangerous? Alec Baldwin incident raises concerns

    World News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Firearms experts say it is rare for someone to be killed from a prop gun while filming a movie or TV show as a weapons master or armourer is mandated to be on set to ensure everyone's safety, in addition to providing rigorous training and gun handling to actors beforehand. Source
  • Not the time to 'freely go wherever,' says Tam as non-essential travel advisory lifts

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Canadians should carefully weigh any future decisions on taking foreign trips even though the federal government has lifted a global advisory asking them to avoid non-essential travel, health officials cautioned Friday. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said the government would be providing more specific information about the severity of COVID-19 in various countries to help Canadians decide where they should consider travelling. Source