Fire at Parksville homeless camp displaces 12 people and closes nature park 

Fire at Parksville homeless camp displaces 12 people and closes nature park 
A nature park in Parksville has closed to the public after a fire at a homeless camp there. Neighbours called 911 for help at 5 a.m. Thursday as flames grew and as Skye Ryan reports, it's revealing a long source of problems there.

Wayne Coulbourn walked nervously into Mark’s Nature Park bordering his Parksville home Thursday, to see RCMP on scene and bylaw crews dismantling the homeless camp inside.

It happened in the wake of a fire at the homeless camp at 5 a.m. Thursday, where flames consumed a tent and some forest at the Finholm Street park, following months of unrest there.

“It has been for the last three weeks I want to say, hell,” said neighbour Wayne Colbourn.

“We’ve had stuff stolen from our front doors, from Amazon we have people coming knocking on our doors at 3 am waking people up,” said the Parksville resident.

Debris from the fire showed torched propane tanks and cooking supplies, along with bags of belongings, and tents of about a dozen homeless people who had been living at Mark’s Nature Park.
According to neighbours, they have been living in fear next to the camp, and hope the city’s closure of the park due to the fire puts an end to it.

“Our hedge where I live has been set on fire,” said Colbourn.

“Also our roofs have been on fire,” he said.

Volunteer outreach worker Mark Russell helped load up the bags into his truck to relocate the homeless that were sent packing by officials. But Russell said there is nowhere to take them in Parksville.

“People who sleep in the park now will be sleeping in business doorways throughout Parksville for the next 4 to 5 days,” said Mark Russell.

“So the city hasn’t offered any solutions or any other place.”

Kelly Morris, an Outreach & Peer Support worker, said, “We have nowhere for these homeless to go. Nowhere.”

“We don’t have a 24-hour shelter, we don’t have treatment, no detox.”

According to Parksville Mayor Ed Mayne, the City of Parksville has approached BC housing to help the displaced residents. But that is the extent of the city’s reaction, beyond closing and cleaning the park.

“They expect them to fly away,” said Morris.

“The homeless are not going to fly away,” she said.

“So there’s a lot of action going on around our community,” said Colbourn.

“Which makes us feel very unsafe,” he said.

So Wayne Colbourne wonders how long it will be before the homeless simply move back in, as neighbours have witnessed in frustration, several times before.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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