Victoria's downtown tent city showed the need to intervene earlier when public properties are taken over by protesters.

Communities struggle with tent cities

Mayors and councillors at UBCM compare strategies and seek help with campers setting up in parks and green spaces

Community leaders from around the province compared notes on dealing with homeless camps at the annual municipal convention Monday, as they await a federal strategy to improve access to low-cost housing.

While housing affordability for people receiving $375 a month housing allowance from provincial income assistance is a growing problem, people who are evicted for their behaviour or refuse to submit to shelter and supportive housing rules are the most difficult to deal with.

The province recently announced a $500 million fund to construct low-cost rental housing around the province. A forum at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria heard that mental health and addiction services also need to be expanded to offer people a way off the streets.

Chilliwack has identified 18 different camps around the community. Mayor Sharon Gaetz said she frequently hears from residents concerned about property values affected by camping in parks, despite efforts to clean up needles, feces and garbage that litter public spaces.

Surrey Coun. Dave Woods said his city has camps springing up every night, and he expects it is only a matter of time before a large one is established as happened in Victoria, Abbotsford and Maple Ridge in recent years.

The Victoria camp set up on provincial land next to the downtown courthouse and it took 10 months, a court injunction and more than 100 hastily acquired transitional housing spaces to shut it down.

One of the lessons learned from Victoria was to act quickly before camps grow large, said Greg Steves, a senior official with the B.C. government.

Dominic Flanagan, executive director of B.C. Housing, said despite its struggles, the province is seen as a leader in its “housing first” approach to dealing with mentally ill and drug addicted people. And while the public objects to “low barrier” shelters, they are needed to begin helping people get off the streets, he said.

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said B.C. Housing’s plan to buy a motel to convert to transitional housing was a good response to that community’s tent camp. But strong public opposition and that of both local MLAs resulted in it being cancelled, and construction of a purpose-built facility has delayed efforts to move people from shelters.

Lawyer James Yardley said efforts to shut down Abbotsford’s camp were complicated by a lack of clarity about how homelessness and shelter beds are defined by the courts. Abbotsford camp representatives continued to advocate for it after they were housed, and some campers refused any indoor accommodation.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Boundary freshet 2020: At least 189 properties ordered to evacuate as of June 1

Real-time gauges on the West Kettle, Kettle and Granby rivers suggested Monday water near peak

Flood warning issued for Boundary as Kettle River expected to rise to 20-year return level

RDKB: This amounts to a high flood risk for low-lying properties in the region

UPDATED: 189 homes in Grand Forks area given evacuation orders

Homes are in the Nursery, Grand Forks Airport, Gilpin Rd., Johnson Flats and Granby Rd. areas

RDKB issues evacuation alert for 1,100 Boundary properties

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

RDKB launches survey to address housing needs in the district

Communities in the district include Trail, Grand Forks, Rossland and Fruitvale

VIDEO: A Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

Videos captured by Terry Eissfeldt shows the bear arriving Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday

George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

Death sparked a wave of protests across the U.S. and abroad

COVID-19: B.C. commercial landlords can’t evict if they decline rent assistance

Emergency order ‘incentive’ for federal program, Carole James says

Investigators probe death of CN employee at Surrey rail yard

Transportation Safety Board is investigating an ‘occurrence that took place during switching operations’

Trans Mountain starts B.C. leg of pipeline twinning project

Mostly finished in Alberta, Burnaby terminal expanding

NDP getting COVID-19 wage subsidy ‘indirectly,’ B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson says he’s heard no concerns from public

Love flourishes at Peace Arch Park, but COVID-19 concerns loom

South Surrey park becomes only place for international couples to meet

Most Read