Growing homeless camp at Nanaimo City Hall sparks frustration


There’s increasing impatience about a tent city that’s growing by the day on the grounds of Nanaimo City Hall. 24 tents have been set up there, since the first one popped up Monday to protest a lack of affordable housing in Nanaimo. In the wake of a months-long tent city in Victoria before this, there’s a very real fear that this could turn into a long battle. Skye Ryan reports.

In the shadow of Nanaimo City Hall homeless man Tony Shirley spent his Saturday picking up garbage, trying to keep the new homeless camp outside the city building from getting run down further.

“Especially like city hall of all places, like this is the place that represents our town you know,” said Shirley, who said he’s been homeless in Nanaimo for the past five years.

“The housing just isn’t out there… you look in the paper now aways and you look in the rentals and sometimes they don’t even have any. Period.”

He’s working to stop the garbage and occasional angry outbursts from tents that he knows are raising residents frustrations about the nearly week-long protest.

“It’s very unfortunate,” said Nanaimo resident Tim McGrath. “I think it’s going to put a bad mark on Nanaimo.”

McGrath stopped by the camp Saturday to see it for himself.

“Here comes another one,” said McGrath, as another tent appeared.

The tent city is growing by the day.

“Am I worried about what it’s doing to the city? absolutely,” said McGrath. “They’re digging in the lawn, they’re setting up platforms, can’t be done.”

The precedence of Victoria’s five-month-long tent city that cost that city and province millions of dollars to fight in court, clean up and police has this community worried.

“That was not handled well,” said McGrath. “I can’t tell the future I’d like to see the city do something about it.”

Yet community advocate Matt O’Donnell, who has become a spokesman for the tent city, says he doesn’t see it coming to that if the City of Nanaimo keeps its word and delivers on funding a homeless centre at the upcoming Monday night council meeting.

“The city is starting to move a bit on providing immediate funding,” said O’Donnell. “So I think that kind of left everyone in a way and see mode.”

RCMP have increased patrols around city hall in the meantime.

These homeless are vowing to stay put until they get what they came for.

“We don’t care,” said Tony Shirley. “It don’t matter if we’re here for months it really don’t bother us.”

This camp is only expected to grow with the warming of spring.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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