Store's dripping-water system to deter loitering raises concerns for Victoria's most vulnerable

A 7-Eleven in downtown Victoria has set up a water dripline to deter people from loitering. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC News - image credit)
A 7-Eleven in downtown Victoria has set up a water dripline to deter people from loitering. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC News - image credit)

Advocates for Victoria's vulnerable population say a downtown store's attempt to deter people from loitering by slowly soaking them with dripping water is degrading and dangerous, especially for homeless people.

The drip-line system was installed under the awning of the 7-Eleven on Quadra and Yates streets.

Emily Fagan, the director of Together Against Poverty Society, says the deterrent is an "inhumane and discriminatory approach" that could leave the city's most vulnerable wet and cold.

"I am very concerned that folks who get wet from this water will stay wet and develop sores on their hands and feet or illness from being chronically wet as they are likely living outside," Fagan told CBC News.

Kathryn Marlow/CBC News
Kathryn Marlow/CBC News

She says she's noticed more "defensive architecture" in the city's downtown that makes public spaces unwelcoming for people who don't have a home.

"Folks often aren't allowed inside of businesses and our shelter system is totally overwhelmed and not able to keep up with the number of people who need access to a safe place. This simply moves folks along and is very much inadequate," she said.

Owners say 'unsafe behaviours' affecting business

Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, says its members were seeing behaviour that were making customers and employees feel unsafe.

"That includes open drug-use, prolific littering and in some cases loud, disruptive language," Bray said on the CBC's On The Island on Thursday.

Stacey Kraus, who owns DTI Computers next door to the 7-Eleven, says he has seen an increase of drug use in the shared parking lot outside the convenience store over the last several years.

"Most of the drug users are fairly harmless ... but sometimes it can be a little heated if you try to move them," he told CBC News.

"I think at this point, it's what do you do if you have a prolific drug problem?"

Kathryn Marlow/CBC News
Kathryn Marlow/CBC News

He said he's had customers call and say they are afraid to come to his storefront because of the number of people using drugs outside the parking lot.

Bray says the challenge is that businesses in Victoria's downtown have no one to call other than police to help deal with such disturbances.

"It's a lack of services, lack of agencies being funded to properly provide support for individuals ... but businesses have said we've borne the brunt of this and its impacting our livelihood ... and our sense of safety," he said.

"We need something different, but enforcement is not what we're asking for."

In a statement to CBC News, 7-Eleven said they are "committed to a safe store environment for our customers and team members."