Sheltering in Gonzales Neighbourhood
The GNA recognises that the issue of homelessness is a highly complex problem with no easy solutions, and that sheltering in parks is a poor option for people without housing as well as a safety concern for housed residents. Gonzales parks have been designated for sheltering since the start of the pandem
Recently Victoria City Council moved to reduce to five the number of parks (with washrooms) where overnight sheltering is permitted. This eliminates the use of several parks which have experienced large numbers of sheltering individuals over the last several years, including Topaz and Stadacona Parks. The GNA has concerns about the City's approach to managing homelessness within the City's park system.
Pemberton and Gonzales Beach Parks
The City's plan keeps both Gonzales Beach and Pemberton Parks on the sheltering list. Although there are 14 official neighbourhoods in the city, 10 of them have no sheltering parks, three have one sheltering park, and only Gonzales has two sheltering parks. Considering that Gonzales is only a small neighbourhood (7% of the City's area) it seems unreasonable that 40% of the City's sheltering parks would be designated here. Gonzales' two parks are only 700 metres apart, further emphasising that the City has done a poor job of distributing the parks fairly throughout the city.
See the neighbourhood map to the right, showing sheltering parks in red, and all other parks in green. Note that Gonzales Neighbourhood includes Pemberton Park and tiny Gonzales Beach Park which is in the bottom left corner of the map but hard to see at this scale.
Gonzales Park is too small
Gonzales Park is by far the smallest of the sheltering parks, at only 0.6 hectares. It is only 87 metres across at its widest. Not only does this mean the park has little capacity for tents, it means that any tent will be right beside a pathway, road, sidewalk, washroom, or private property. Since the start of the pandemic some neighbours living immediately adjacent to the park have been very heavily impacted by shelters erected a few metres from their homes.
See the map showing the comparative size of parks used for sheltering in the last several years. We note that Regatta Point Park has been removed from the sheltering list because it is small and close to a pathway. Gonzales park is about the same size and is intersected or bordered by sidewalks, roads, and pathways. It is unclear why Regatta Point was removed from the sheltering list and Gonzales was not.
See a sketch map to the right showing the dimensions of Gonzales Park. We have also provided a bulleted list of some of the sheltering prohibitions that further reduce sheltering area in the park.
Homeless sheltering is not ending
We are concerned that the City is concentrating sheltering in fewer parks on the assumption that the number of people experiencing homelessness is declining and will continue to do so. This seems unrealistic. People will continue to fall into homelessness, and people without the means to secure housing will continue to migrate here from other parts of the country. In addition, there are people already in Victoria who are sleeping in public spaces because they either do not wish to live in transitional housing or have been repeatedly evicted from such facilities. We are concerned that the two parks in Gonzales and the three parks in the rest of Victoria will become the permanent locations for sheltering those people who are most difficult to house.
If you are concerned
If you are concerned about the future of sheltering in Gonzales or Pemberton Parks, consider contacting the mayor or city councillors. You can find a complete list of phone numbers and email addresses by clicking here. If emailing you may wish to cc the GNA on your email at firstname.lastname@example.org.