WATCH: Excavators have moved in to the former tent city site but what will the transformation bring? April Lawrence reports.
Heavy equipment has replaced homeless campers at Victoria’s tent city.
Workers in hazmat suits and dust masks guide the machinery as it chews up soil, shrubs, and trees.
Some scattered garbage and a few personal items are the only reminders of the more than 100 people who called the land home for more than nine months.
The campers have moved into new provincial housing, leaving the courthouse land an empty canvas for the neighbourhood.
“It would be nice to finally see a nice finish, nice green lawns and flowers where people can walk around on pathways, that’s what I’d like to see,” said one resident.
“We used to play Frisbee and ball here so I liked it when it was a nice open space,” said one woman who lives nearby.
Many are pushing for a children’s playground.
“It should absolutely be a playground, I lived downtown for 10 years and I just had to move a little bit out of the way because there’s no spots for families,” said a mom pushing two young children in a stroller past the property.
A petition has been started to rule it out one activity on the site — overnight camping, similar to what they allow in Victoria city parks.
“This is the worst possible place because we think people might be nostalgic about it and want to come back and party and we don’t think that’s fair for the residents here,” said Mad as Hell spokesperson Stephen Hammond.
But if the province follows Victoria’s lead, a playground may prevent overnight camping.
“We have an exemption in our city bylaw saying not in our children’s play areas,” said Victoria City Councillor Chris Coleman.
Now that tent city is gone, many in the neighbourhood may prefer to forget it ever happened, but others believe it served a purpose that should be remembered forever.
“I think they made a difference for social housing and I think it should be recognized for sure, maybe a plaque,” said one resident.
“I’m not sure what shape it should take whether a plaque a memorial or something but I think it’s important to mark something that has been a crucial difference,” said Reverend Canon Nancy Ford who works out of Christ Church Cathedral across the street.
The province says it’s looking at all options, including a playground, but it’s too early in the restoration process to make a decision.