Encampment returns to Langford downtown park after city deep cleaning

Luke Cruickshanks says he has nowhere else to go, and now calls Danbrook Park home.

A day after a homeless encampment in a downtown Langford park was cleaned up by city staff, those taking refuge in Danbrook Park are back.

“I would love a structure over my head,” said Luke Cruickshanks who grew up in Langford, and is now back at 31, living in one of his hometown’s parks.

Belmont High School was his alma mater, but he never graduated. Addiction took his life down a different road.

“I’ve just been damaged, so damaged. My girlfriend, she actually overdosed. She passed away in the Johnson Street building. And that’s just the start of it. Friends upon friends upon friends upon friends,” said Cruickshanks.

Now, after being kicked out of supportive housing in Victoria, he’s calling Danbrook Park home.

“Nine a.m. in the morning, bylaw comes and tells us we have to pack up. Then rinse and repeat,” said Cruickshanks.

He’s one of the five-to-10 people who, in the last six months, have been sheltering overnight in the park. Monday, frustration with open drug use and crime in the area came to a head at a council meeting.

After receiving an earful from angry residents calling for change, Langford council says it’s trying to find solutions.

“What we’re doing at a local level, is exploring all options as quickly as we can,” said Mary Wagner, acting Langford mayor on Thursday. “This is the first summer that we’ve had that situation so I think all municipalities are dealing with the fact that we weren’t consulted, we weren’t prepared to deal with this new policy that’s open drug use in our parks.”

Open sheltering in parks is an issue that’s relatively new to Langford and for this new council, a problem West Shore RCMP says is on the rise.

“If someone wants help, that should be available,” said Brandon LavalĂ©e, 31, who is living in Danbrook Park as a way to escape the chaos of Pandora Street in Victoria.

For those like Lavalée, sheltering in Langford, away from services, comes with a cost that can be deadly.

“The first night I saved someone from overdosing,” said Cruickshanks. “We might need an overdose prevention site here.”

Langford’s mayor and council say they just don’t have the established services like in Victoria, but they’re working on it.

“It’s just a really difficult situation with no clear answers or easy solutions,” said Wagner.

Yet another municipality in Greater Victoria now grappling with sheltering in parks and the complexities like addiction and mental health issues that come with it.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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