Friday, January 22, 2016

Tents and tarps

Victoria's courthouse overlooking Tent City...
Victoria's courthouse overlooks a sea
of tarps, tents, mud and refuse...

Like a lot of cities across North America, Victoria has a homeless problem. Several years ago, a provincial judge ruled that it was illegal to prevent people from sleeping in public parks, if there weren't enough shelters available to them.

Victoria responded by crafting a bylaw that allowed the homeless to sleep in parks, but they were required to pack up and be gone in the morning.

A few months ago though someone in the ranks of the homeless discovered a loophole. By camping on the grounds of the provincial courthouse in downtown Victoria, they were on provincial land and, hence, exempt from the city bylaw. In a short time the word spread among the street community and within a matter of weeks a tent city was established in the heart of Victoria. It is estimated that there are now more than one hundred people living at the site.

I went down yesterday to view the situation myself. The combination of people and torrential rains of the past few weeks have turned the once green lawn into a field of mud.

The edges of the field are littered with piles of junk. Bike parts, random bits of unidentifiable metal, discarded wheels from shopping carts, worn out tents and tarps... Fortunately, the city has installed outhouses adjacent to the field.

Christ Church cathedral overlooking Victoria's Tent City...
The far end of the tent city
is overlooked by Christ Church Cathedral...

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