A top Sidney official says the number of people experiencing homelessness in the community has dropped since BC Transit stopped offering free transit during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sidney/North Saanich RCMP noted a higher number of homeless in our communities during COVID-19, which was related to free bus services,” said Andrew Hicik, Sidney’s acting chief administrative officer. Since this service stopped, the homeless population returned to its usual 15 to 25 individuals.
Iroquois Park, where showers were open to use for several weeks, continues to draw people.
Hicik said municipal bylaw enforcement works closely with police to monitor the parks, educate local homeless who use the parks, and ensure that they comply with the bylaw requiring them to take down their tent by 9 a.m. each day.
“During normal times, Sidney has only two or three people erecting tents for shelter on a regular basis,” Hicik said, adding that residents should call bylaw enforcement if they feel rules are being broken.
When bylaw officers encounter campers they have asked to move along, officers will inspect the sites with public works, cleaning them up if required, said Hicik.
Police also conduct weekly foot patrols with a community outreach worker from the ministry of social development and poverty reduction to offer assistance through what Hicik called the “many” available social assistance programs. Hicik also said Doctors of the World attend the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank every second Thursday to offer free medical treatment to anyone in need.
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