A large camp set up by homeless people in downtown Nanaimo has been torn down by the city after a fire destroyed several tents yesterday.
For months the encampment on Wesley Street in downtown Nanaimo was a visible reminder of the city’s homeless crisis but tonight the camp no longer exists.
Friday morning, Dozens of police, bylaw officers and city workers pulled apart tarps and tents where officials estimate close to 60 people lived.
A major fire and series of explosions destroyed multiple tents Thursday.
It was the last straw for the city, as campers were still not complying with a fire safety order issued in October.
“Because of the ongoing dangerous conditions. We’ve had multiple fires in there and as you can see from yesterday it was a very significant fire that could’ve had a lot worse outcomes,” said Deputy Chief Tim Doyle of Nanaimo Fire Rescue.
Officials say campers had the opportunity to take their belongings with them. But some say what’s happening isn’t right.
“A complete violation of human rights. They gave people no time. They’re in there with a bulldozer. They’re throwing stuff in the garbage. Thousands of dollars of worth of stuff. The only things that people own,” said Ajay Booth, a homeless advocate.
“I think that this is wrong. They’re not giving them any time for one person’s maybe two person’s mistake,” said Jennie Nowe, a Nanaimo resident.
Now the former campers are wondering where they can possibly go.
“There’s really no housing. Even the shelters. They open up new ones they’re already full. There are twice as many homeless people as there were when the last tent city was,” said Stephen Fromow, one of the displaced campers.
But the city said provincial partners were trying to aid the homeless in finding an appropriate place to go.
“There are tents being given away. There are taxis and transportation offered. There are shelters in the community that still have some available beds. There were some shelter beds available even last night and those agencies are ongoing working to find solutions to support the displaced persons,” said Doyle.
By Friday afternoon all the tents were gone. The city says fencing and staff will ensure another encampment doesn’t spring up here again.