Tent cities

Election 2020: What can the government do about tent cities

This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative

The BC Liberals are calling for an immediate end to the tent cities that have sprung up in Campbell River, as well as larger cities like Vancouver and Victoria

Photo credit: artist’s depiction of affordable housing being built for homeless people, or people at risk, in Campbell River – courtesy city of Campbell River

BC Liberal press release

In a press release, Roxanne Helme, the BC Liberal candidate for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, said, “This is a matter of public safety. Each unsupervised 24/7 tent encampment is an extremely dangerous place to be.  We know people are smoking drugs in nylon tents; criminal elements have infiltrated the camps to prey on the vulnerable people within them; there is violent crime, in addition to drug and property crime, hiding within their walls; they are unsanitary; there is no compliance with public health directions in response to COVID 19 and so the list goes on. This not to mention that the 24/7 tent encampments are preventing the use of our parks as they were intended and that they are damaging their delicate ecosystems in the process.”

Ms Helme added, “the only ‘solution’ that John Horgan and the NDP have come up with is to warehouse some of the homeless population in derelict hotels without sufficient supports.”

Aside from the suggestion “they must be appropriately housed,” she did not explain where the people in these camps would go. 

The BC Liberal candidate for North Island, Norm Facey, is not available for comment. 

Photo from Campbell River homeless camp – courtesy City of Campbell River website

Homelessness in Campbell River 

Campbell River’s homeless population is now probably closer to 100 than the 81 listed in 2018

Only a fraction of these live in the city’s ‘homeless camp.’

Sue Moen, a member of the Green Party team as well as the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness, recently explained that there isn’t a ‘typical’ homeless person.

“People become homeless for every reason that there is a person experiencing homelessness. It could be fleeing violence, family break-down, fire, flood or an expected loss of employment,” said Moen. 

“Homeless, according to the definition used by BC Housing, includes people who are precariously housed, or couch surfing, or aren’t paying rent directly to a landlord. They may be sharing a room, but their name isn’t on the rental agreement. They don’t know if they’ll have housing for the next thirty days … Also, there are a lot of people who are living in vehicles, RVs, and some even in campsites. If they are off the beaten track and do not connect with services, they sometimes do even consider themselves homeless.”  

The city was thinking of setting up a better tent city, using protocols to protect the residents from COVID,  last Spring.

Enter BC Housing

A provincial agency, BC Housing, came forward with a more permanent solution. 

BC Housing, the City of Campbell River and the Vancouver Island Mental Health Society are partnering to build 50 new homes with support services for people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness at 580 Dogwood Street. 

Artist’s depiction of the future residence at 580 Dogwood street, Campbell River – city of Campbell River

The province is also funding two other Campbell River building projects that target specific needs. The Fir street residence will have 49 units for women and children fleeing violence. Linda’s Place will have 27 units for people with low to moderate incomes, including those with brain injuries. 

In addition, BC Housing purchased the former Rose Bowl restaurant, in Campbell River, as a transition house with beds for 20 houseless people until more permanent accommodation can be found.  

At a meeting last summer, Kristi Schwanicke, Coordinator of the Campbell River & District Coalition to End Homelessness, said, “All of these projects, coming online so quickly, will have a tremendous impact over the course of the next six months.”

BC Housing Projects on Quadra and Cortes

The projects BC Housing is currently funding on Quadra and Cortes Islands are for seniors rather than homeless people.

The proposed Rainbow Ridge development on Cortes Island – courtesy Cortes Community Housing

However a 20 unit project in Mansons Landing is, at least in part, a response to Cortes Island’s seasonal homelessness problem. Every year, tenants are evicted from their homes during the warmer months, to make way for the more lucrative tourist trade, are forced to set up tents,  couch surf of find some other accommodation until the season is over. If their property is rezoned, the Rainbow Ridge project will be seeking funding from BC Housing. 

Top photo credit: Affordable housing in Vancouver by Mike via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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