Discontent City in Nanaimo at 1 Port Place Drive grew all summer in 2018 and eventually housed an estimated 500 people. It was cleared out in mid-December with a cleanup cost to taxpayers of $466,000.
“Look, the cleanup costs for tent cities in other places is a significant burden on the community, there ‘s no question about that,” said Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog.
The largest portion of the cleanup costs were associated with staffing, costing the city $225,537 in wages.
Krog says taxpayers can blame higher levels of government for allowing homelessness to get as bad as it is.
“You know we had a long period of time where provincial in particular and federal governments weren’t stepping up to the plate to deal with the affordability crisis, to deal with homelessness, mental health and drug addiction issues,” he said. “It’s going to take a long time to get us back to a situation where you don’t see the level of street homelessness and poverty that we do in Canada today.”
Krog will likely be seeking financial aid for another homelessness related expense, a daytime drop-in centre, something Nanaimo hasn’t had since The Living Room in the mid-2000s.
“We won’t be reinventing the wheel, we’re going to look to best practices and the best way to ensure that people who have no place to go particularly during the day, actually have a place to go,” said Krog.
Expertise could come from Our Place Society in Victoria, an organization with a long history of helping the homeless.
Some Nanaimo councillors and staff began speaking with Our Place last fall.
“It was sort of a natural fit that we would begin talking about how our operation runs here, what the value of that might be to the community (Nanaimo) and what that might look like in Nanaimo,” said Our Place Society COO Linda McLean.
The previous Nanaimo council budgeted $100,000 a year for a drop-in centre which Our Place Society says would be enough to open the doors somewhere for two hours a day, five days a week. If it were increased to five hours a day, seven days a week the cost would rise to $360,000 a year, which is why Krog would be looking for aid from Victoria and Ottawa.
Krog says there’s no timeline for when a daytime drop-in centre would be opened.