City of Nanaimo disbands homeless camp below the Bastion Street Bridge

City of Nanaimo disbands homeless camp below the Bastion Street Bridge
A homeless encampment under Nanaimo's Bastion Street Bridge was dismantled by authorities Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022.

With another snowstorm approaching Wednesday, city bylaw and police officers were disbanding another homeless camp in Nanaimo.

The Bastion Street Bridge in downtown Nanaimo has seen a growing number, around 25 people, using the bridge for shelter. But on Wednesday morning, bylaw officers and police cleared it out.

“We were basically all sleeping and the next thing you know the cops and bylaw showed up, telling us we had five minutes to pack up our stuff and get out. They started grabbing our stuff and throwing it away,” said James Brierly, who was among those who lost possessions.

Brierly said he had been staying at the homeless camp for two weeks and received no warning of the teardown.

Those working at a nearby warming centre say the timing was suspect.

“At eight o’clock in the morning when most of our community members were accessing the showers or Salvation Army New Hope for breakfast and we were closing up the warming centre, bylaw and RCMP showed up without much notice and unfortunately took many of those items away,” said Jovanne Johnson from Warm Reach Risebridge.

The warming centre said the action only further traumatizes marginalized people, adding that any supplies given to campers were trashed and working together could have made the process safer.

“It’s not being done in a trauma-informed way. It’s not being done with enough notice and I think a contingency plan needs to happen here. The advocates here were even asking themselves where are they supposed to be going?” said Johnson.

Nanaimo’s mayor says the city has been monitoring the encampment and problems were growing.

“The evidence was clear that they were lighting fires, destroying meters in the parkade, preventing people, lawful users, permit holders from gaining access. Very frightening for many citizens and it had grown to a size that it was absolutely necessary to shut it down for public safety reasons,” said Leonard Krog.

Krog went on to say officers gave the campers 24 hours’ notice.

“The folks there had every opportunity to remove themselves and their possessions whatever they may be and chose not to do so.”

Krog says the province needs to be providing more secure facilities and treatment for those who need it.

Those at Warm Reach say more needs to be done to help the marginalized in the interim.

The City of Nanaimo has been involved in clearing a number of homeless camps since a larger one on Wesley Street saw a fire in 2020.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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