Saanich’s homeless campers set up behind the municipality’s fire and police department buildings Saturday afternoon.
The group arrived around 4:00 p.m. and quickly unloaded their supplies. They began setting up camp in both the parking lot of the buildings and along the Patricia Bay Highway.
Officers told them to move a camper blocking the rear exit, and soon after around 6:15 p.m. told those in the lot to move to the area near the highway.
The group arrived at the new spot after they left a property on West Saanich Road, Camp leader Chrissy Brent says the new location was in a response to the failure of Saanich’s modular housing proposal.
“This is the land Saanich put forward for modular housing, but the province turned down,” said Brent. “You can see why it blackberry bushes, its trees, and a steep incline, so I think it was not in good faith they offered up that property.”
The land was rejected on Thursday and the province says it was a result of the steep slope of the property and that the construction and placement of the modular units would require significant engineering and construction,
Brent says the decision for the spot was also to be less controversial, on the advice of the property owner of the West Saanich land they occupied before the move.
“A lot of the controversy has been around being around residents, and the fear of the unknown, and police had fears around their policing issue, the fire department had concerns about fire issues… we’ve [now] got all our emergency services here,” said Brent.
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The group left the property on West Saanich one day after their agreement with the owner, Sam Seera. Before, they were in Goldstream Park in Langford and then in Saanich at land near Ravine Way and at Regina Park.
Brent says they hope the move pushes the province to keep looking at options for housing the homeless.
“We support the province in saying that they need to find more suitable property to put modular housing, I think maybe Ravine Way across the street where we were,” said Brent.
Saanich’s emergency command vehicle has been set up, and officers are watching around the encampment.
More information about the incident is expected to be released by police Sunday.