WATCH: The province says conditions at tent city have deteriorated and there are new housing options for campers to move to. April Lawrence reports.
When the province first went to court in March to seek an injunction to shut down tent city the courtroom was filled with homeless campers pleading with the Supreme Court Chief Justice to let them stay.
And he agreed, denying the province its injunction.
On Monday, as the province headed back to court to try again for an injunction there were few, if any, homeless campers present.
Security had been increased, with everyone forced to walk through a metal detector and have their bags checked just to get inside the courtroom.
The province is arguing that the homeless encampment has deteriorated, citing an increase in fire danger, in crime and violence, and worsening sanitary conditions.
“The province has overwhelming evidence to indicate the horrible violence and other things that are going on in tent city and around the neighbourhood,” said Stephen Hammond, spokesperson for ‘Mad as Hell’, a neighbourhood group opposed to tent city.
Policing has increased at the site in the last couple of months and B.C.’s Fire Commissioner has issued an order for the camp to be shut down because of serious life-safety concerns.
Those at the camp admit the population has changed since the last injunction hearing.
Many of the original residents have moved on, and been replaced with campers facing even greater challenges.
“Our population has changed to a new crowd of people and it’s taken the same amount of time for this community to start working together like a community and more like a family,” said tent city supporter Christine Brett.
The province says the campers now have somewhere else to go, after announcing 140 new long-term units of supportive housing at a former seniors care home on Johnson Street, which will open in July.
But with 1400 homeless people counted during the recent ‘Point in Time’ count, advocates argue much more permanent social housing is needed, and it needs to be suited to the needs of the homeless population.
“We are just about to celebrate Canada Day, we are proud Canadian citizens also, we’re just poor, we want homes,” said camper Bert Woldring.
The province is also taking a gentler approach with its injunction application this time.
It’s asking for a phased out plan, where fire concerns are addressed immediately, but campers are only moved on as new housing opens up.
It’s asking for an eventual closure date of August 8th.
The injunction hearing continues Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court.