Sheltering in Parks

We are committed to keeping park activities safe for everyone, including park visitors, City staff who work in parks, and people seeking temporary shelter.

The City continues to work closely with the Province and BC Housing, as well as community agencies, to find housing and supports for people experiencing homelessness in our community, and progress is being made to move people inside. 

In addition, Victoria’s Housing Strategy includes several policies to address housing and affordability in our community and provides guidance for housing policies and initiatives that meet residents’ needs across the housing continuum.

While we work to end homelessness in our community, our focus remains on finding ways to support our most vulnerable residents and manage sheltering in parks as safely as possible for everyone.

 

Rules for Overnight Sheltering in Parks

As of May 1, 2021, daytime sheltering is not allowed in City of Victoria parks. However, people experiencing homelessness may shelter overnight in some parks from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. (8 p.m. to 7 a.m. during daylight saving time). Recreational camping is not allowed in City of Victoria parks.

There is an unprecedented effort underway to move people inside through an ongoing partnership between the Province, BC Housing, the City and service providers. Anyone experiencing homelessness can contact BC Housing at 1-800-257-7756 (toll-free) to receive an application form and begin the process of moving into a safe indoor space.

People experiencing homelessness can shelter overnight in some City parks while following some basic rules. For more details, view the Parks Regulation Bylaw and the amendment bylaw adopted on April 15, 2021.

  • Sheltering is not permitted in environmentally or culturally sensitive areas, playgrounds, sports fields, community gardens and horticultural areas, footpaths/roads, cemeteries or on medians/boulevards
  • For safety and bylaw compliance, shelters must be:
    • No bigger than nine square metres (approximately 10 ft x 10 ft)
    • Spaced four metres (13 ft) apart
    • Four metres (13 ft) from no-shelter areas or private property lines
    • Eight metres (26 ft) from playgrounds
    • 50 metres (164 ft) from school property
  • For safety, environmental protection, and bylaw compliance, please do not:
    • Locate shelters directly under trees and branches
    • Attach shelters to trees, plants, benches, lamp posts or other structures
    • Have fires or open flame appliances or combustibles, except for approved BBQs in allowable areas and at least two metres from any structures or no-shelter areas
    • Remove tree branches or use City property to construct shelters

View the Overnight Sheltering in Parks handout, and maps of parks with washrooms where overnight sheltering is allowed.

 

How are the rules being communicated?

Bylaw officers are actively working with people in parks to ensure regulations are understood and are being followed. Signage is posted in several parks where sheltering is allowed to further remind everyone of the rules. An Overnight Sheltering in Parks handout is available from bylaw officers which clearly communicates sheltering rules and lists locations for shelter, food, showers and other services.

In addition, the City’s Neighbourhood Team is in regular contact with neighbourhood associations and community groups about all City matters including sheltering in parks.

 

How is the bylaw being enforced after May 1?

The City is using an individualized approach to bylaw enforcement. Housing is being prepared to welcome residents in May, and people have been offered those spaces in advance so they’re ready to move in when facilities open up. Bylaw Services tracks who is sheltering where, whether they have been offered housing, whether they have accepted the offer, and where and when they are expected to move inside.

People who accept an offer and are preparing to move from parks will not be required to pack up daily. Bylaw officers will allow time for moving into the transitional housing locations and will assist with downsizing belongings. When indoor spaces are ready, Bylaw and outreach workers will assist people with packing their items in totes and helping people move.

Effective May 1, people who do not accept an offer will be required to take down, pack up and remove their tent and belongings daily by 7 a.m. Any tent or property unlawfully left in place after 7 a.m. will be subject to impound and can be retrieved through Bylaw Services.

City Council has authorized the City Manager and City Solicitor to proceed with a court injunction to enforce the Parks Regulation Bylaw should voluntary compliance not be achieved.

 

How can I help people experiencing homelessness?

If you would like to assist, please reach out to one of the agencies helping the most vulnerable in our community with meals, housing, health and wellness, education, and practical care. Some organizations are listed in the Overnight Sheltering in Parks handout. Please do not drop off furniture or other property in parks or on boulevards.

 

Areas Where Sheltering is Not Allowed

People sheltering in parks need access to washrooms and running water. The City has identified some parks in our Overnight Sheltering in Parks handout that have facilities and are most suitable for temporary overnight sheltering.

However, there are parks where sheltering is currently not allowed at any time. They are:

  • Arbutus Park
  • Bastion Square
  • Cecelia Ravine Park
  • Centennial Square
  • Central Park
  • Coffin Island
  • Cridge Park
  • David Spencer Park
  • Haegert Park
  • Kings Park
  • MacDonald Park
  • Moss Rocks Park
  • Oaklands Green
  • Pandora Green
  • Pioneer Square
  • Quadra Park
  • Queens Avenue Playlot
  • Reeson Park
  • Robert Porter Park
  • Ross Bay Cemetery
  • South Park
  • Summit Park
  • Topaz Park

   

Contacts

For removal of garbage or hypodermic needles in a park, contact Parks with the address and location of the item(s) and our caretaking crew will come and pick it up.

In addition, the ConnectVictoria app is a fast and easy way residents can take a picture of the issue, pinpoint it on a map, and submit it directly to City staff from their phone. The app can be found in the iTunes or Google Play app stores under the name ConnectVictoria.

To report a bylaw violation:

Bylaw Services

To report crime and community safety concerns:

Victoria Police

  • Phone 9-1-1 for emergencies or crimes in progress and 250.995.7654 for non-emergencies