More than 600 items donated to the homeless occupants of Topaz Park
Topaz Park saw a 20-foot container lifted in by a crane on Wednesday morning, chock-a-block full of donated tents, sleeping bags, tarps and sleeping mats.
Members of the Greater Victoria community helped gather 640 items for the homeless being diverted to the park after many shelters shut down due to COVID-19.
The items were collected by a newly-established Neighbourhood Response Team comprised of members of the United Way Greater Victoria, HeroWork Victoria and Big Brothers Big Sisters Victoria.
On Saturday, the team collected donations at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena, seeing 166 tents, 240 sleeping bags, 109 tarps and 125 sleeping mats dropped off.
“We’re really thrilled with how the city responded,” said Paul Latour, founder and CEO of HeroWork.
The items will remain on site in quarantine for three days before being handed out as needed, Latour added.
There are more than 100 people already at the park, which has been organized by the City of Victoria, the province and local organizations to offer a more established site for the city’s most vulnerable during the pandemic.
“It’s important because how are the homeless going to self isolate and get food?” Latour said. “This is a place where food is brought in and served, where there’s proper spacing around tents.”
The area also has washrooms and handwashing stations, as well as staff on site to make sure everyone is comfortable.
“We want to thank everybody who dropped off items on Saturday,” said Mark Breslauer, CEO, United Way Greater Victoria. “This is another example of extraordinary generosity during this pandemic. The ‘neighbourhood’ truly responded.”
Topaz park has opened ahead of a similar camp at the Royal Athletic Park, which is being designed to accommodate people with higher needs, including those struggling with mental health and addictions.