Have you seen Victoria's tourism brochures lately? They have pictures of quaint streets lined with colourful hanging baskets. Images of golden sunsets and the landmark Empress Hotel. It's the kind of city we all aspire to retire in one day...or should we?
In a recent business trip I made to Victoria, I was struck by how many homeless people were wandering the street. Folks, what you see in the tourism brochures isn't what you get when you walk the streets of Victoria.
For the past ten years, work has taken me back and forth to Victoria on a regular basis. Although my analysis is not scientific, it sure looks to me like there are a lot more homeless people walking the streets of this capital city. On some days, it seems like hundreds.
So why are there so many homeless people wandering Victoria's streets? Is it the warmer climate? Is it easy access to social services? Are Victorians simply more tolerant? Hard to say, but what I do know is that this growing social problem is at some point or another going to hurt the image of a city whose main revenue generator (after the government that is) is tourism.
Former Mayor Lowe was beginning to tackle some of these issues before he left office. He was advocating for a safe injection site and funding for supportive housing.
With Lowe now out of the picture, it will now be up to the new Mayor to carry the baton forward and make sure something is done to help these poor souls get off the street and into care. He should reach out to the Housing Minister, roll up his sleeves and get to work on this as soon as humanly possible.