Man living in van welcomes Victoria’s proposal to allow sleeping in vehicles

WATCH: People are currently fined for sleeping in their vehicles in Victoria, but that may be about to change. April Lawrence reports.

Delmar Martay has been living in a vehicle for nearly three years, recently upgrading to a minivan after his last car was rear ended.

But since you aren’t allowed to sleep in your car on Victoria city streets, finding a place to park for the night is tricky.

“I just park in parks now, out of the way, try not to be around any kind of residential area,” he said.

Because if you’re spotted, you could be handed a $60 fine, not an easy bill to pay for someone already struggling with poverty.

“The city shouldn’t be fining those homeless citizens, who, because life is tough, are living in their cars for the moment,” said Victoria City Councillor Chris Coleman.

So Coleman and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps have put forward a motion to change the bylaw to allow people to sleep in their cars whenever the vacancy rate is below 3 per cent, which it has been for more than two decades.

And if the number of tickets handed out is any indication, more people are sleeping in their cars than ever — from 80 in 2014, to nearly 180 tickets handed out last year.

“We have seen families who have told us they are living in their cars, seniors who are living in their cars,” said Kelly Newhook with Together Against Poverty Society.

Newhook hopes Victoria moves forward with the bylaw change, but says it’s in no way a solution.

“Living in your car is not a social safety net, that to me is a huge gap people are falling through, and we need more, we need more action and we need it now,” she said.

Victoria council still has to discuss the motion but the current plan has similar rules to park camping — it would only be allowed from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and the vehicle would have to be insured.

“It’s not an attempt to allow RV’s to go down to Dallas Road and have a good summer camp,” said Coleman.

If it’s passed, the bylaw change could be in place by the end of the month.