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:

http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/asithappens_20100901_37596.mp3

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, Timescolonist.com 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: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/City+boulevard+camping+Pandora+Avenue+tent+city/3461867/story.html#ixzz0y9ozr4Mo

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: http://vibrantvictoria.ca/local-news/council-drafting-no-boulevard-camping-bylaw/

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

Advocate: economy-size discounted mouthwash can kill

A version of this story appears on VibrantVictoria.
By Robert Randall

A local advocate working with Victoria’s Downtown street community is upset at a local retailer’s potentially fatal promotion.

Margaret O’Donnell, Executive Director of The Oasis Society for the Spiritual Health of Victoria says that prominently displayed sale-priced mouthwash at the new Saanich WalMart is proving to be too tempting for local hard-core alcoholics.

O’Donnell contacted Uptown’s WalMart manager to let him know that two homeless individuals cashed their government cheque and walked to the box store’s pharmacy last Tuesday afternoon and bought four $4.95 bottles of Listerine mouthwash. The two walked back into town and proceeded to ingest all four bottles over the course of the rest of the afternoon. By 7:00 p.m. they were rushed to hospital with alcohol poisoning.

One litre bottles of Listerine on display near the entrance of the Uptown WalMart. The $5.79 price displayed this week is well below the regular price offered at many Downtown pharmacies. Photo by Robert Randall © VibrantVictoria.ca.

O’Donnell says that mouthwashes, which can contain up to 27 percent alcohol, should be stocked behind the pharmacy counter and should only be dispensed upon request and at the pharmacist’s discretion.

O’Donnell is also concerned about the easy availability of one-litre jugs of 99 percent isopropyl alcohol on sale for less than five dollars, noting that while restricting the sale large bottles of non-beverage alcohol will not stop binge drinking, it may reduce instances of its abuse.

Many Victoria-area alcoholics are banned from Downtown pharmacies for reasons related to alcohol abuse. Pharmacy policies regarding mouthwash vary although most have their mouthwash stocked over the counter. Downtown’s View Street Pharmacy offers one-litre bottles of Listerine on store shelves at $8.95.

Recent research has shown that British Columbia’s per capita alcohol consumption is rising at a faster rate than in the rest of Canada. The BC Coalition for Action on Alcohol Reform says the annual cost of alcohol abuse in BC is $2.2 billion, or $536 per person. Many harm reduction experts favour “wet shelters” as a way of stabilizing hard-core alcoholics who are unable to quit drinking. Residents living in a wet shelter are given small servings of alcohol on a regular basis by health professionals. This greatly reduces incidences of excessive drinking and allows alcoholics to live healthier, more productive lives.

Copyright © 2010 by VibrantVictoria.ca. All rights reserved.

August 14, 2010 at 1:07 am 1 comment

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: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/Pandora+gripes+other+governments+city+councillor+says/3371030/story.html#ixzz0vz2Fk200

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

Vic News: Downtown plan being drafted

New vision for downtown

By Roszan Holmen – Victoria News
Published: June 22, 2010 9:00 AM
Updated: June 22, 2010 9:48 AM

The downtown is a great place to live, said Robert Randall, chair of the Downtown Residents’ Association.

“New shops are opening all the time and new residential buildings are coming online meaning more choices,” he wrote in an e-mail to the News.

“The challenges continue to be related to social issues and making sure problems aren’t simply displaced from one district to another,” he added.

“The loss of St. Andrew’s school and the Village Marketplace (on Pandora Avenue) remind us that when social problems are ignored and businesses falter it has the potential to create a dead zone that takes years to recover from.”

Buy-in from every department is a big concern, Randall added.

“For instance, is the engineering department looking at innovative solutions regarding sewage in Harris Green which is already at capacity? If this area is Victoria’s new high-density neighbourhood we need more than just dreaming from the planning department. Our half-billion dollar infrastructure deficit is a big roadblock to achieving these goals.”

June 24, 2010 at 12:13 pm Leave a comment

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