Nanaimo is dealing with a homeless encampment of its own that, while much smaller than Victoria’s, is poised to face its own eviction day of sorts very soon.
Below the downtown Pearson Street bridge, which is land controlled by the Provincial Ministry of Transportation, a small tent city has been up and running for about six months, without the city being able to do anything about it. But now, big changes are expected within days.
The increased police presence, and homeless tent city below Pearson bridge along Nanaimo’s waterfront has attracted such fascination even homeless people like Stew Lindbergh from elsewhere have come to check it out.
“I just wanted to see. For me it’s hard to understand too right,” says Lindbergh.
The father of three is staying in a Nanaimo homeless shelter until he gets back on his feet, but says in his travels he is seeing more and more of these tent cities popping up.
“I’ve traveled all across Southern BC and Alberta and I’ve just seen more and more of it,” says Lindbergh.
But this tent city’s days appear to be numbered. After six months of being largely untouched because the spot under this bridge falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transportation, signs have gone up, signalling change and that the campers will be forced out this weekend. Construction is planned to begin Monday and longtime camper Baron de Guire says people are beginning to panic.
“That stress is causing almost a pandemonium in terms of what are we gonna do are we gonna jump to the other side of the bridge, camp put in a city park,” says De Guire.
But just across the bridge it’s a totally different story. They can’t keep tents there. The side they’re on now is under the control of the Ministry of Transportation, this one is under city of Nanaimo Parks, making it an offence to camp here during the day so RCMP are pushing campers on.
“Alexia are you home? Or here?” ask RCMP bike patrol members checking on a tent that’s popped up overnight. “It’s 10:30, time to get up and move on. You guys have got a huge mess here.”
Giving the city at the very least the authority to ticket and challenge people camping there that they don’t have across the bridge.
“We can certainly respond to the public and say we are aware that there is an encampment and we’re hoping that the Ministry of Transportation will take the appropriate steps,” says Rod Davidson, Manager of Bylaw Services for the City of Nanaimo.
But De Guire says campers aren’t about to go quietly.
“No, I think there will be a fight. I think there will be a stand to the very end,” says De Guire.
One that this province might be used to but that certainly can’t be said for this mid-Island city now watching on in wonder.