A group of volunteers will soon be moving their homemade showers into Beacon Hill Park to support unsheltered people in the community.
The showers, built by community group Showers for the Unhoused, were not sanctioned to be built by the city.
Instead, the group says that it decided to build the shower stalls to fill a need that had been voiced by homeless people in the region.
“We heard calls from the unhoused community, and the frontline workers that work with that community, that there’s a need for showers,” said Gina Mowatt, a volunteer with Showers for the Unhoused.
“They need to be able to clean themselves during the pandemic and they need warm water living outside in tents,” she said.
The City of Victoria says it is aware that there is demand for shower facilities in the municipality but that resources are currently stretched thin.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who has previously advocated for opening shower facilities at Royal Athletic Park, says that the municipality is still looking at ways to provide showers for people who are unhoused.
“Staff did their very best to try and make it work, to try and find an operator for either shower trailers or showers at the park – they were unable to do so,” she said.
Victoria shelter operators say they understand there are challenges when trying to open up showers to the community, as the facilities need to be managed and regularly cleaned, especially during a pandemic.
“The big part with that is getting enough staff in place, which is why it is easier to do it inside Our Place because we have all the staff,” said Grant McKenzie, director of communications for Our Place.
While shower facilities are available at the shelter, McKenzie notes that long line-ups aren’t forming, despite there being a vocal need.
“People don’t want to travel,” he said. “You know, people are split up around the municipalities and so people don’t necessarily want to travel to Our Place to get a shower.”
That’s why Showers for the Unhoused is preparing to install their showers at Beacon Hill Park, where many campers are currently staying.
The group says it’s still making some final preparations but that is has established protocols to keep both the showers and the community safe and sanitary.
“We can act in solidarity and provide these very basic services and needs until the city can provide those to that community,” said Mowatt.
“Showers aren’t the risk. Not having housing during the winter, during a pandemic, is the risk,” she said.
Victoria city council is expected to consider a motion that calls for municipal funding of Our Place to extend the shelter’s shower facility operating hours by several hours, seven days a week.