Camping in Beacon Hill Park will likely be banned for two years, following a vote at council’s committee-of-the-whole meeting Thursday.
The motion, presented by Mayor Lisa Helps and Couns. Marianne Alto and Charlayne Thornton-Joe, states that two years is the amount of time needed for the park to recover from over a year of intensive camping during the pandemic. The motion passed, with Couns. Sarah Potts and Sharmarke Dubow against and Couns. Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday recused.
It now heads to a full council decision on June 17 where it is expected to be approved.
Beacon Hill Park was one of many parks opened to around the clock camping when the pandemic hit to give people experiencing heightened homelessness a place to stay. Since then it has become a point of community controversy, with critics arguing camping has rendered the parks unusable for others and unhoused people and advocates saying they have a right to be there. As of May 1, Victoria reinstated its bylaw limiting camping in city parks from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Helps, Alto and Thornton-Joe argue in their motion that Beacon Hill Park was never designed for camping and its lawns, vegetation and biodiversity have sustained some damage. They estimate two years completely shelter-free is needed to restore it, but have asked city staff to advise them if longer is required at the end of that period.
Community organizations The Existence Project and Rethink Urban oppose the motion, saying that criminalizing and enforcing homelessness won’t make it go away. They say, for many, Beacon Hill Park is a safe haven and place of community.
If the motion is ratified on June 17, Beacon Hill Park will join 23 other parks where sheltering is currently banned.
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