WATCH: A group protesting homelessness camped out Friday night in a controversial spot. Just a few weeks before Remembrance Day, they’ve chosen to pitch their tent in Oak Bay’s Uplands Park, right near the municipality’s cenotaph. Mary Griffin reports.
Dave Rogers is the owner of BC Hazmat, a company specializing in hazardous materials cleanup.
In one of his containers is needles. The others contain drug paraphernalia found by employees of BC Hazmat. The company is contracted by Oak Bay to clean up behind the municipal hall and Willows Beach. Those are the two previous locations for a tent city in the municipality.
“The campers are saying they police their own, and clean up their own,” Rogers said. “We have more specialized tools that go looking into the deeper grass, and bark mulch.”
The homeless campers are now located Oak Bay’s Uplands’ Park, right beneath the cenotaph.
On Tuesday, Oct. 24, the campers moved from Willows Beach and pitched their tents at the new location. Chrissie Brett is a homelesss advocate, and currently living in the temporary tent city.
“This is just our communal sitting area,” Brett said. “When the rains are blowing. And things get really crazy. I’ve got a cot with an extra mat.”
But on Nov. 11, which is fewer than three weeks away, hundreds will gather and lay wreaths. Camper Bruce Hansen says he understands the sensitivity of the location.
“I know the grandparents I had that fought in the wars wouldn’t have any objection to citizens raising their concerns in an environment like this,” Hansen said.
But after two weeks in Oak Bay, the group may have overstayed their welcome. Brett has a video of Oak Bay Deputy Police Chief Ray Bernoties’ visit to the camp. where he orders the campers to leave next by the morning of Oct. 31.
“That’s a possibility,” Brett said. “We’re looking at other locations. And other municipalities. But it’s a definite possibility.”
Meanwhile, people walking and jogging by the popular park are split on whether or not the camp should stay. Bruce Nicolson, who wasvisiting Oak Bay from 100 Mile House, says he doesn’t see the problem. “It looks like they are doing a good job of keeping it very clean and tidy,” Nicholson said. “I don’t see that they are doing any harm. It’s just for a short period of time? Why not let them do it?”
But Oak Bay resident,and moderator of the Facebook page “Oak Bay Local”, Julie Helms, has some concerns.
“I think a lot of people are nervous about the potential of having drugs, needles and that sort of thing,” Helms said. “So that’s a huge issue. But at the same time, people want to make sure that homelessness as an issue is heard.”
The tenters had promised to leave Uplands Park in time for the Remembrance Day ceremony.
Their deadline to leave is by 11 a.m., Oct. 31.