Posts filed under ‘Our Place’

CBC’s “As It Happens” on boulevard camping

CBC’s national current affairs show As It Happens talks with me about Victoria’s proposed prohibition on boulevard camping.

As I Happens Part II: Windows Media File

Segment begins at 7:50.

Or listen to the podcast:

September 2, 2010 at 11:29 pm Leave a comment

TC: City might ban boulevard camping

City might ban boulevard camping, end Pandora Avenue tent city

By BILL CLEVERLEY, August 30, 2010 7:27 PM

The days could be numbered for the makeshift tent city outside the Our Place drop-in centre on Pandora Avenue.

Citing public safety concerns, city staff are recommending city council amend its streets and traffic bylaw to prohibit camping on city road allowances — in particular on boulevards and medians. In addition, the amendment would prohibit occupation of medians between sunset and sunrise the next day.

However, a certain amount of displacement is exactly what’s needed on Pandora right now, argued Robert Randall, chairman of the Downtown Residents Association.

“It will scatter some of the elements that are using that median,” Randall said. “We were talking this morning that it’s getting to be more than just campers. It’s turned into the drug supermarket of the region and all sorts of things that are just not compatible with social calm and order.”

Read more:

I’m not sure I agree with Constable Pearce. I suspect enforcement of this bylaw will take up more police resources but I bow to the Constable’s expertise in these matters and hope it will not cost more than the millions of dollars already spent on this block. An unexpected side effect could be the dispersed campers could spend more time dwelling in our doorways and side alleys. Condo dwellers are already having to deal with discarded clothes and sleeping bags and human waste on their doorsteps on a daily basis.

Read my article on the bylaw on Vibrant Victoria:

August 30, 2010 at 10:16 pm Leave a comment

Globe: Victoria’s ‘tent city’ on verge of becoming public health hazard

Lack of hygienic facilities, group of injection-drug users pose potential risk, says B.C.’s chief medical health officer

Brennan Clarke

Victoria — From Saturday’s Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Aug. 27, 2010 8:46PM EDT

Two years ago, a landmark court ruling gave homeless people the right to pitch their tents in Victoria city parks. Now the province’s chief medical health officer says a bustling “tent city” made possible by that decision is on the verge of becoming a public health hazard.

“Any time you have a number of people camped together without hygienic facilities for a period of time there’s a potential for a health risk to those individuals,” Dr. Perry Kendall said.

Robert Randall, chairman of the Victoria Downtown Residents Association, said most nights this summer anywhere from 30 to 60 people have set up tents, tarps and makeshift shelters on the site, including a core group who have either refused shelter or been banned from Our Place.

The result has been an increase in violent crime, drug use, prostitution, used needles and discarded condoms.

“It’s become a drug-buying destination for the region, there are old blankets and sleeping bags and refuse everywhere and people are increasingly using the area as a toilet,” Mr. Randall said.

Similar problems occurred outside the former AIDS Vancouver Island needle exchange on Cormorant Street, less than three blocks from Our Place, Mr. Randall said.

The City is supposed to announce some sort of new initiative soon.

One thing no-one ever mentions is the welfare of the Our Place residents. Don’t they deserve a home where the front door is free from drug pushers? Do the most vulnerable members of our society have to push their way through a gauntlet of drugs just to get home?

August 28, 2010 at 12:04 am 2 comments

Times Colonist: “Aim Pandora gripes at other governments, city councillor says”

Testy e-mail sent to businessman

By Bill Cleverley, Times Colonist August 7, 2010

Robert Randall, chairman of the Downtown Residents Association, hopes Thornton-Joe’s e-mail wasn’t an indication the city is giving up.

“I think we’re throwing in the towel a little soon by just throwing up our hands and saying it’s all in Gordon Campbell’s hands,” Randall said.

Randall believes there are steps that can be taken to stop the Pandora Avenue tent city from becoming a permanent fixture.

Some of the ideas that have been suggested are designating Pandora Green a provincial median which would prohibit anyone from using it to open up other areas of town to camping.

“Once the other neighbourhoods have a taste of what Pandora is experiencing, I think it would be a bit of a wake-up call,” he said.

Read more:

I was cc’d all those emails, and Matthews ticked me off for refusing to complain to other levels of government. As if he thinks all City Council has to do is plead a little louder to the Province and Feds.

That said, I do think that there may be more things the City can do to break up the tent city and the associated drive-thru drug supermarket. One of the examples I mentioned in the above article was designating Pandora green as a Provincial median. That means no pedestrians allowed and would also reduce the risk of further traffic deaths like we’ve seen recently. Would I support that? No, I see it as a desperate last resort.

I sent Charlayne a letter of support last night after the story was published but I said that the closure of St. Andrew’s school will be a terrible blow to the area and I don’t think we could survive another one like that. This neighbourhood is really teetering on the edge.

Mat Wright asks:

Rob – correct me if this is wrong. Does the court ruling allowing camping say it is permissible only if shelter beds are not available?

What I know is that the Supreme Court ruling allowed camping if the number of homeless outnumbered the amount of shelter beds. However, the revised City of Victoria bylaw does not mention shelter beds, it only has a few restrictions: no daytime camping, not in certain parks or sports fields etc.)

August 7, 2010 at 9:00 pm Leave a comment

Times Colonist: Pandora homeless troubles soar

Police say 24/7 patrols not feasible despite rise in crime on 900-block

By Katie DeRosa and Bill Cleverley, Times Colonist July 16, 2010

Problems stemming from homelessness and drug use in the 900-block of Pandora Avenue have dramatically worsened in the last five years, according to Victoria police statistics.

However, the department says it can’t justify the $1.2-million cost of having police there around the clock and said the problem has to be dealt with through housing and support.

read more

I witnessed yesterday’s Planning and Governance meeting at City Hall where Council went over the budget for next year and the five year plan*. The block is sucking away most police resources. The police budget already comprises a huge amount of the annual budget. Patrolling the 900 block Pandora costs thousands in police overtime wages but this is still more cost effective than hiring and training new officers.

I’ve said it before but the solution addiction, homelessness and crime is treatment and housing for those willing and able to get with the program and institutionalization or incarceration for those that can’t. The Federal and Provincial governments must continue to do their part.

*side note: Where was the Johnson Street Bridge in previous five year plans? Engineers knew for years it was unfixable. Did Council?

July 16, 2010 at 9:27 am Leave a comment

TC: Drug use, camping spiralling out of control on Pandora, businesses and residents say

Article in Saturday’s Times Colonist about the problems on Pandora Avenue. People ask me what should be done (or what I would do).

“It’s like a cancer that grows. We are at that tipping point right now,” says Rob Randall, chairman of the Downtown Residents Association.

Victoria police Insp. Jamie Pearce, who heads the city’s focused enforcement team, says the 900-block of Pandora — bordered by Quadra Street and Vancouver Street — accounts for more of his officers’ time than any other area of the city.

He says drug arrests are made daily and people are regularly ticketed for things like public urination, but as far as camping on the grassy stretch in front of Our Place is concerned, their hands are tied.

“They’re allowed to be there,” says Pearce. “The appeal court has actually said that camping in parks is legal and they are allowed to do so and that is designated as a park area.”

Many of the problems on the street involve 20 to 25 individuals, a number of whom have been banned from Our Place yet continue to hang around in the area because it’s a focal point for street people. They’re well known to police and regularly cycle through the justice system, landing back on the street.

“It’s a very complex social issue,” Pearce says. “We’re talking mental health, addictions and homelessness issues that we’re dealing with at the crux of the issue. You’re not seeing this in any other part of town. Unfortunately, it’s now centralized.”

Randall is sympathetic to the police and agrees that in many respects they are caught between a rock and a hard place, but warns the 900-block of Pandora is dangerously close to being lost.

“I think there is a push to ghettoize it and make that the dumping ground for all the city’s social problems,” Randall says, adding a VIHA proposal to put a fixed needle exchange in the block, which was subsequently quashed, “would have been the last straw in writing off that whole neighbourhood.”

“The people who think that was merely NIMBY concerns are simply not understanding the issue and the dynamics of how a neighbourhood changes,” he says.

As it is, the combination of Our Place, the provincial Ministry of Housing and Social Development — which delivers income assistance — and a pharmacy dispensing methadone within the same block has the neighbourhood teetering on the brink of “total oblivion,” Randall says.

Read more

The most evil part of all this is that the more the City does to fix homelessness, the more the other levels of government offload their responsibilities.

In addition to more treatment and housing, we need a community court system so that criminal activity can be dealt with–instead of ignoring it. It will work here.

June 13, 2010 at 1:03 am 2 comments

St. Andrew’s Elementary to close

By Robert Randall

A version of this article originally appeared on Vibrant Victoria.

St. Andrew’s Elementary School, at Pandora Avenue and Vancouver Street, will close. Photo © by St. Andrew’s Elementary School.

St. Andrew’s Elementary, a fixture in Victoria’s North Park neighbourhood for decades, will shut its doors and amalgamate with St. Joseph’s school on Burnside Road according to a statement by the Bishop of the Diocese of Victoria, Richard Gagnon.

The announcement, part of a briefing outlining a new strategic plan for Victoria Catholic schools, comes three years after the closure of another urban Christian school, the Greater Victoria Christian Academy. The GVCA had classrooms in The Church of Our Lord in the Humboldt Valley and Central Baptist Church on Pandora Avenue until 2007. The school faced declining enrollment linked to parental concerns about social problems surrounding the needle exchange on Cormorant Street, a block north of Central Baptist.

St. Andrew’s principal Keefer Pollard denies the move is precipitated by the street community that gravitates toward the 900 block of Pandora and Harris Green, saying the school’s mandate is to respond to the needy. St. Andrews participates in the Pandora Green Good Neighbour Association and is an active participant in improving conditions in Harris Green and North Park.

Pollard cites declining enrollment as one factor in the decision to close the school, saying both St. Andrew’s and St. Patrick’s (located in Victoria’s Jubilee neighbourhood) have too many empty seats and are unable to balance their budgets. Saanich’s St. Joseph’s, on the other hand, is at capacity with 200 seats. A planned expansion in five years will double the current number of students at St. Joseph’s.

St. Andrew’s, rated highly in the C.D. Howe Institute’s rankings of local schools is located at 1002 Pandora Avenue, in a 1931 heritage building. The building is not seismically upgraded to current standards, a point of great concern to Pollard and one he feels will be rectified by a move to a new state-of-the-art facility.

Left unanswered is the question of what happens to the school building when it is vacated in five years. Owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese, the property encompasses the main school building, an annex containing a gymnasium, a playground and playing fields. The Diocese will begin a series of consultations with parents, teachers, the Catholic community and other stakeholders over the next several years before coming to a decision on the fate of the property.

The school made headlines in 2008 when it spearheaded a protest against the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s bid to relocate the Cormorant Street needle exchange to the former St. John’s Ambulance building at 941 Pandora, a short distance from school grounds. The neighourhood, already reeling from an increase in social disorder exacerbated by a high concentration of social services in the area, was chosen as the new location for the exchange in a surprise move that caught parents, residents and business owners off guard. Many felt the addition of a needle exchange so soon after the Cormorant Street debacle would be the tipping point that would lead to an irrevocable change for the worse.

Copyright © 2010 by

April 10, 2010 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

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