Tent City invades “crowning jewel” park in Victoria; Residents feel abandoned by local government

Many parents have been tasked with weighing the mental health pros for keeping their children in school this fall, against possible cons linked to the repetitive “worse than the first wave” of COVID-19 warnings.

But the parents of children who attend South Park Elementary, in Victoria, British Columbia, have a unique concern to consider regarding the well being of their children:

The ever growing tent city that’s located directly across the street from their children’s school.

This past weekend I took a walk through Beacon Hill Park. This beautiful park, which is described as “the crowning jewel in Victoria’s Park System”, has become less popular for families to enjoy; its approximately 740,000 square meters of parkland now being utilized as a tent city for more than 100 homeless people.

According to Victoria.ca, a court order was granted to the city that required tent residents to be reallocated within the park. While that was a step in the right direction, many feel it’s not enough.

Concerns about both a threat to the preservation of the park and the safety of the surrounding citizens are still commonly expressed by many. 

Stephen Andrew, a candidate running for Victoria city council told me, “There are increased police patrols in the park due to reports of increased criminal activity in and around the park. Many people reach out to me to say that they feel unsafe.”

On August 20, CHEK News reported that, according to police data calls, reports of “mischief, weapons, street violence, and break and enters in the downtown core are on the rise.

Global News reported that on August 23, Victoria police issued a warning to the public after a man, walking through a trail at the park, felt a pain in his foot only to discover he had been poked by an uncapped needle.

The city’s Mayor, Lisa Helps, sent a letter to parents of South Park Elementary. According to CTV News, Helps said that the encampment tents are “not in an appropriate place,” and that the “city staff were drafting amendments to bylaws that would prevent sheltering in tents near the school.”

Many tax paying residents are not holding their breath and are losing faith in the mayor, especially after Mayor Helps and other city council members stood in favour of deferring enforcement of the 7am to 7pm bylaw that was designed to have the campers cleared during the day.

More than 25,000 Victoria residents who still have concerns for the rare, sensitive ecology in the park, the safety for local citizens, as well as those who wish to find an appropriate housing solution for the homeless, have come together to sign a sign a petition to help save Beacon Park.

I took a walk through Beacon Park  safely, I might add since we brought along professional security, just in case.

Let's take a look at what life at the park was like.