January 24, 2021
To:Honourable Premier of BC, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. David Eby, Q.C., Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing. david.eby.MLA@leg.bc.ca
Honourable Josie Osborne, Minister of Municipal Affairs. josie.osborne.MLA@leg.bc.ca
Honourable Adrian Dix, Minister of Health adrian.dix.MLA@leg.bc.ca
Honourable Mike Farnworth, Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General mike.farnworth.MLA@leg.bc.ca
Honourable Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions sheila.malcolmson.MLA@leg.bc.ca
Grace Lore, MLA, Victoria-Beacon Hill, grace.lore.MLA@leg.bc.ca
Laurel Collins, MP, Victoria, email@example.com
Lisa Helps, Mayor, Victoria BC firstname.lastname@example.org
Fred Haynes, Mayor, District of Saanich, email@example.com
Malcolm McNaughton, Director Regional Development Vancouver Island Region, BC Housing firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbara Desjardins, Mayor, Esquimalt, email@example.com
David Screech, Mayor, View Royal, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chet Phillips, Lead Organizer Greater Victoria Act Together email@example.com
Kelly Roth, Executive Director, Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness firstname.lastname@example.org
Colin Plant, CRD Board Chair, email@example.com
I am a long-time resident of Victoria living in James Bay. I am also a person living with a MultipleSclerosis (MS). I am writing to you as a private citizen who lives directly across the street from Beacon Hill Park. I wish to share my story of the park.
The story of Beacon Hill Park can be overwhelming and difficult to share. Life for those living in the park is clearly not an easy one. At the same time, their presence in the park has created stress for the community members living nearby. Local residents have been on the receiving end of backlash from the city when they speak out about their concerns. Sadly, this has given others in Victoria license to do the same creating division and a culture of fear and silence in the community. I am writing to you with hope that we can break the silence and create a space to hear the stories of those who live around the park and work toward change.
Sharing our stories does not mean we lack empathy, in fact, I would say it is the opposite. It is those of us who live by the park that hear the constant cries and see the suffering first-hand. Yes, we want the park to be a place for everyone, but more importantly, many of us see how inhumane abandoning people to the parks to fend for themselves is.
Beacon Hill Park, and most other parks in the city for that matter, have become a long-term “solution”to homelessness. This comes with a high human and financial cost that is diverting funds away from community services that could truly help. Do not mistake my words for a bid to defund the police. It is merely my observation that there is a significant increase in police and other emergency responders in front of my home attending to people in the park. There are also a dozens of community workers and medical staff from agencies throughout the city reaching out to those living in the parks, not to mention bylaw enforcement officers and security. The past week alone I have seen four fires, two of them directly in front of my residence (not reported by media), one across from the children’s playground near South Park School and more recently one near the Petting Zoo where a person was also attacked. These are just the calls I am aware of, and with all of these calls comes a high financial and human cost and no change.
In front of where I live there are several tents, some visible and others hidden amongst the trees. A couple lives in the tent directly in front of my building. They yell at each other violently throughout the day and night, so much so that some of the others living in tents near by appear to have moved. It is distressing and heartbreaking hearing the shrieking through my windows; I can’t imagine what it is like living in a tent near-by.
About 2 weeks ago, at about 3:00 AM, the woman from this tent was in a psychotic rage. It was more than enough noise to wake up local residents as she stood in front of my building yelling profanities at the top of her lungs. Fortunately, a community worker was called and remained near-by assisting her. This yelling went on for over an hour. Eventually several first responders arrived, and things settled.This was not the first time or the most recent and it will continue until she receives the right help. The “solution” at this point appears to be prolonging her suffering and pain. All the while others are caught in the crossfire.
As an unwilling participant in this constant barrage of misery and human suffering I find myself unable to sleep most nights and at a heightened state of anxiety during the day. All of this at a cost to my health and leaving me vulnerable to MS relapses and attacks, some of which I have already experienced. Sadly, if this continues much longer, I too may find myself unable to work, pay my rent and living in the park. I suspect I am not alone. For those who hold me in judgement for speaking-up for myself, I can only encourage them to buy or rent a place on the front-line.
Respectfully I am asking for your help. I am asking on behalf of those currently living in the park and around it. My request is not a political one tied to any agency or party; it is a simple humanitarian request, that our parks not be used as a solution for homelessness and the many challenges those currently living in the parks face. I am asking that you encourage all other parties in a position to create a solution set aside any political aspirations and difference so they may simply work with others toward a solution.
It is imperative that an emergency housing task force be struck, including municipal, provincial, federal and health authority representatives, with the goal of creating an immediate plan as well as a longer-term solutions for our regional district. I am aware of many parties considering this issue, but I do not see the evidence that they are working together. I am requesting leadership, and I see you as a key leader in this issue. Someone must act and quickly. Please can you stand up and help the citizens of this region to work together on a solution – we need your help!