Emotions erupt at special council meeting to discuss Saanich’s tent city


WATCH: It started out small, but now the number of tents located in Saanich’s Regina Park is about 75. The issue drew fire at a meeting last night. Local residents are upset with the lack of action from councillors. But as Mary Griffin reports, the mayor says a solution may be on the way.

It was quiet in Saanich’s Regina Park on Friday morning.

But it was a different story at a council meeting about the park on Thursday when emotions of area residents spilled out over the issue of the tent city there.

Mayor Richard Atwell addresses the meeting.

“We are aware of the growing frustration in the community, particularly in the area adjacent to the park,” Atwell said. “I can assure you that the district is committed to bringing the encampment to a conclusion.”

Alan Murphy’s property backs onto Regina Park.

“The campers are right in my backyard. Literally in my backyard. We don’t use our backyard anymore,” Murphy said.

Area resident Nina Bhangu is frustrated with the proximity of the tents.

“Members of the tent come in and cut through the blackberry bushes and settled themselves right up against our fence. We have no privacy in our backyard. We have young children in the home. There is swearing, and cursing at night time. I’ve had to call the police many times in the middle of the night,” Bhangu said.

Carol Hamill said it’s time for action by the government.

“This encampment has created a lot of furor in the community. It’s because there’s been a lack of political will and I think one of the speakers pointed out that nothing has changed in twenty years. And something has got to change, or it’s just going to get worse,” Hamill said.

One of the campers grew up near where he now sleeps in a tent.

Ryan Williams said he heard the concerns of the local residents.

“My family’s been affected by me being homeless. It’s up in jeopardy right now. It’s hard to talk about that part, but, sure, I’ve had a bad past. None of the people that are at tent city want anything bad to happen to the neighbours,” Williams said.

Now the campers are facing eviction, but many, such as Sean Hayman, say they have nowhere to go.

“I can’t really afford housing in Victoria. There is the odd thing that will pop up, but there is so many trying to get it,” Hayman said.

As a result of the meeting, Atwell says the municipality is now actively looking for somewhere to build modular housing, with funding coming from the province and Ottawa.

“If we can get something done very quickly in the next month or two, we could see addressing the needs of Regina Park neighbourhood, and the folks that are in the park, roughly around the time of the end of the year,” Atwell said.

B.C. Housing says it could have homes built within ten weeks.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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