‘Elevated safety risk’: Victoria encampment residents may have to go sooner than expected

By Germain Ma

People may have to leave the Weber and Victoria encampment sooner than expected.

It was last month when the region made around the clock washroom access available to residents.

At the same time, construction for a new regional transit hub was slated for as early as the fall, around a block away.

There are now images of fencing already up at King and Victoria streets.

A spokesperson for the region told CityNews 570 that staff have “identified an elevated safety risk to those at the site and members of the public.”

“I was by there yesterday afternoon, and in just a couple minutes I was there, I saw police presence. I saw what looked like a couple of people being arrested. And, I saw one man who had stopped traffic on Victoria Street because he was, sort of, wandering around in the middle road, obviously in great distress,” said Regional Councillor Elizabeth Clarke, who chairs the Community Services Committee.

In recent weeks, the encampment grew “significantly” to around 50 people and 60 tents.

“We've had a recent serious assault happen. We've had fires and conflicts among encampment residents and other neighbours and they really are escalating,” said Clarke. 

Nearby residents and businesses experience this on a daily basis.

“They're fearful of what's happening as well. I think that they have a sense of urgency and we have a responsibility to respond to that. This is property that we own. And as the owners of the property, we have some liability around what goes on there,” she said.

According to the region, outreach staff have provided “connections, supports and services to individuals at the site” since last December.

They're working to find shelter and other housing for the residents.

Asking people to leave the encampment is a last step in “in a multi-pronged approach,” and the timing of any next steps has not been set yet.

“We certainly wouldn't be planning on coming in today and closing down today. We would be giving people notice, and working with them over a period of some time,” Clarke said.

“How fast this happens really depends on what happens there.”

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