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Victoria mayor defends his record on helping homeless after house, car vandalized

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin defended his record on helping the homeless Friday following an early morning attack on his home by vandals who smashed his car window and spray-painted anti-poverty messages on his vehicle and garage door.

"A lot of who I am and why I ran for council is to address the very issue of homelessness and affordable housing, recognizing that we needed to do more," Mr. Fortin said. "However, this incident does nothing to help us solve homelessness in our community.

Mr. Fortin learned of the attack via a phone call from a media outlet that received an anonymous tip early Friday about plans to spray-paint graffiti on the mayor's house.

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Mr. Fortin, who was at home with his wife and two young daughters at the time, emerged to find shattered glass in the driveway, the letters "ACAB" scrawled in red paint on his driver's side door, and the message "72 PG" on his garage door.

Shortly afterward, he received a rambling, profanity-laced e-mail explaining that ACAB stands for "all cops are bastards" while 72 PG refers to "the number of new homeless in Victoria created by government policy" and the city's recent move to ban overnight camping in an area called Pandora Green.

The e-mail went on to say that the city's "outrageously cruel and callous policies are hurting people and destroying lives" and accused "fascists" of "killing off the street population" by taking away shelter beds during the winter.

About 60 overnight shelter mats at two downtown churches that received temporary finding from the province through the end of October were closed earlier this week.

However, city spokesperson Katie Josephson said the $100,000 allotment was redirected toward other services, resulting in a net loss of only 12 mats.

Police called Friday's attack "unsettling" and said the language in the e-mail "is considered threatening."

Victoria Police Chief Jamie Graham said his department "takes these criminal acts seriously and will investigate this cowardly incident to its fullest."

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The Committee to End Homelessness, a grassroots group representing Victoria's street population, issued a statement Friday denying any connection to the attack.

However, committee spokesman Phil Lyons said many street people are frustrated that short-term shelter beds are being cut at the same time as the city is cracking down on overnight camping.

The attack on Mayor Fortin's house came two days after the official opening of Rock Bay Landing, a brand new, shelter with 85 beds and 23 supportive living units, replacing the long-running StreetLink operation on Store Street, which had 80 beds.

The city is also involved, directly or indirectly, in the construction of 165 new supportive-living units that are slated open this winter.

And in September, the provincial and federal governments contributed $3.75-million toward a 70-unit supportive housing project involving two bankrupt Traveller's Inn motels that the city purchased for $5.6 million last year.

Prior to his election as mayor in 2008, Mr. Fortin spent 17 years as executive director of the Burnside-Gorge Community Association, a Victoria agency that provides housing and social programs for low-income residents of the inner city neighbourhood.

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