VICTORIA — British Columbia's housing minister says the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened homelessness in the province's capital, with the region facing a lack of shelter spaces for those who test positive for the virus.
David Eby says he had hoped once tent encampments were dismantled, BC Housing and provincial staff would be able to find more permanent solutions for housing, but a surge in COVID-19 cases hasn't made that possible.
It's meant that homeless people living outside and who have tested positive for COVID-19 haven't been able to be given indoor shelter until recently.
The province, along with the health authority and city, announced the creation of 50 new COVID-19 isolation shelter spots to help those who have contracted the virus and are looking to live indoors.
Dr. Richard Stanwick, the chief medical officer of health for Vancouver Island, says the health authority estimates that just 30 per cent of the homeless population has had the vaccine, compared with more than 80 per cent for the general population.
Mayor Lisa Helps says sleeping in a tent or a park is neither a housing nor health solution, and the city has been working with the provincial government and health authorities to find a solution.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said this week that health officials across the province are dealing with similar scenarios, which has been made worse by places that were used as temporary shelters switching back to their original purpose as hotels or motels.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2021.
The Canadian Press