Sheltering in Parks

We are committed to protecting our parks and the natural environment and 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 provincial and federal governments, as well as community agencies, to find long-term housing and supports for people experiencing homelessness in our community. 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.

The ongoing pandemic has reduced access to indoor supports for people experiencing homelessness. While homelessness, mental health and addictions are the responsibility of other levels of government, the City is dealing with the direct impacts of these long-term challenges in our parks, which have been heightened by the pandemic.

There are no easy solutions to the challenges we are facing, and ideally no one would be sheltering in parks. This challenge is not unique to Victoria and is being faced by communities throughout the province and across Canada.

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

 

Rules for Temporary Sheltering in Parks

During the Provincial State of Emergency, while access to indoor shelters and supports remains limited, the City is allowing all-day sheltering in designated parks for people without homes.

In September, temporary amendments were made to the Parks Regulation Bylaw including new restrictions on the size, spacing and location of shelters as well as a ban on open-flame appliances and combustibles.

There are no designated campgrounds in the City of Victoria and overnight recreational camping is not allowed. However, people experiencing homelessness can shelter in designated City parks while following some basic rules:

  • 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
    • 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
    • Possess gas fired appliances and combustibles
    • Remove tree branches or use City property to construct shelters

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

 

How will the new regulations be implemented?

Bylaw officers are actively working with people in the parks to ensure the new regulations are understood and are being followed. We have also added signage to several parks where sheltering is allowed to further remind everyone of the rules.

In addition, the City’s Neighbourhood Team is increasing communication about sheltering in parks with neighbourhood associations and community groups.

 

What is the City doing to protect public safety in and around parks?

The City has increased the number of bylaw officers to ensure safe sheltering to protect our parks and the natural environment and keep park activities safe for everyone. Bylaw officers work closely with people sheltering in parks to communicate basic rules and share information about available services like food, harm reduction and showers.

In addition, the police budget has been increased to provide dedicated police patrols in parks through the end of the year.

 

Is sheltering allowed in all parks?

People sheltering in parks need access to washrooms and running water. The City has identified 10 parks in our Temporary Sheltering in Parks handout that have facilities and are most suitable for temporary sheltering.

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

  • Arbutus Park
  • Bastion Square
  • 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

 

Where can people sheltering in parks access services such as food, showers and harm reduction?

Bylaw officers are in parks daily and work closely with community organizations and peers to share information about services available in the community. A Temporary Sheltering in Parks handout is available from bylaw officers indicating locations for shelter, food, showers and other services. Bylaw officers are also working to get people registered for the BC Housing assessment list and working closely with our partners at Island Health and other community agencies.

This work is ongoing, and the City will continue to support efforts to create long-term housing solutions with ongoing supports so that people can build a better and more comfortable life.  

 

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 Temporary Sheltering in Parks handout. Please do not drop off furniture or other property in parks or on boulevards.

 

Public Washrooms

The following locations have washrooms that are open 24/7:

  • Beacon Hill Park Main
  • Beacon Hill Park Nursery Road
  • Beacon Hill Park Cook and Dallas
  • Beacon Hill Park Douglas and Battery
  • Langley Street Loo
  • Spiral Washroom (corner of Government St. and Pandora Ave.)
  • Centennial Square
  • Cecilia Ravine Park
  • Regatta Point
  • Vic West Park
  • Irving Park
  • Oaklands Park
  • Stadacona Park
  • Pemberton Park
  • Hollywood Park
  • Gonzales Park

 

Contacts

Who to contact to report a bylaw violation or inquire about impounded items:

Bylaw Services

Who to contact about crime and community safety:

Victoria Police

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

Who to contact if you see garbage in a park that needs to be cleaned up, if you find a needle, or damage to park facilities:

Parks Division