WATCH: Those at Nanaimo’s Discontent City say there’s hypocrisy at play. They say the city is trying to force everyone to leave the camp but that RCMP and bylaws officers are telling the homeless in parks and private lands to move into the camp. Kendall Hanson reports.
People living in Nanaimo’s tent city say their camp is growing more crowded and more dangerous.
Camp residents say there are now over 300 people living there.
“Just in the last month or so it’s increased quite a lot,” says tent city resident Willie McGillivary.
And they say the city is partly to blame.
“We’ve now had police sending people from other tent cities to come here to live and then they’re saying we can’t live here, they want us off,” said McGillivary. “What are we supposed to do? Go back to the streets?”
Madyson Dunbar says she was living in a wooded area, in Nanaimo, three weeks ago when RCMP told her to move along.
“They told us we either had an option of going out of town, like past town limits, which is way too far from anything or we had the choice to come here,” said Dunbar. “So not really a choice.”
But city officials say they don’t want more people moving into the tent city.
“The reality is there are a lot of people that are in open spaces all over the city that are being moved or being asked to move,” said Dave Laberge, Nanaimo’s community safety manager. “And they’re asking where they can go, where they wouldn’t be a bother, and perhaps that’s why some people are given that advice even though that wouldn’t be our preference.”
Those at Nanaimo’s tent city say the crowded conditions are making it difficult to comply with the city’s fire safety orders.
“It’s getting overcrowded,” said McGillivary. “The fire bylaw officers are going to be in here and we’re going to get shut down because there’s not enough room for the amount of people that are here.”
Residents say the camp’s single water tap and limited washrooms are inadequate.
“I want a place where we can come and go and at least live like a human being,” said McGillivary.
Residents are now wondering if homeless people who were forced out of Saanich’s tent city will be heading for Nanaimo.
“Not yet but I imagine that’s going to be happening pretty soon as well,” said McGillivary.
The City of Nanaimo is seeking a statutory injunction to shut down Discontent City and have its occupants removed from the area. A two-day hearing was held in July but a ruling has not yet been made.