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Former Auditor General wanted more police on street issues

B.C.'s Auditor General John Doyle yesterday said the provincial government has failed to develop a plan to address homelessness or find a realistic way of measuring success. Two years ago his predecessor wanted more police to deal with street issues and disorder outside his office.

In a letter dated Feb. 13, 2007, then Auditor General Arn van Iersel wrote to Victoria's mayor and council complaining about illegal activity outside its Bastion Square offices downtown.

“Just last week we had a couple fornicating outside our training room,” wrote van Iersel. “We also again had people shooting up drugs outside our back door. This is not the workplace I or my staff would like to have, and certainly not the image we want to have about Victoria.”

The Auditor General wrote that the building's landlord had someone clear “syringes and other debris” every day, but that “what we need is more of a police presence.” He also asked the city to consider adding more surveillance cameras.

A city official wrote back that the city is facing “some complex social issues” and blamed addictions and the lack of affordable housing among other things.

After the letter, first reported on by Victoria's Monday Magazine, became public, van Iersel said the office would investigate the government's homelessness strategies, but that the investigation was unrelated to the problems outside his office.

Yesterday's report, Homelessness: Clear Focus Needed, identified several common causes of homelessness, including the lack of affordable housing, “low wages relative to living costs” and strict welfare eligibility requirements.

The report recommended the government do more to prevent homelessness and to monitor it “so that the public and Legislature can understand its extent and whether or not progress is being made.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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