Police and bylaw officers take down another Nanaimo homeless camp

Police and bylaw officers take down another Nanaimo homeless camp

Fences now surround an area in front of Port Place mall in downtown Nanaimo where as many as 40 people have been sleeping each night.

“When we’re in a cluster, we don’t get bugged by vigilantes and stuff like that,” said Dan Bore, who was camping there.

On Thursday morning, however, police and bylaws officers moved in and told the campers it was time to leave.

“They just showed up yesterday morning and kicked us out and then continually harassed us as we moved from place to place down here all day yesterday,” said Robert Silva, another displaced camper.

Advocates say unhoused people deserve better.

“We’re just seeing the city shifting populations from place to place to place and they’re just moving them all around the city and it’s not effective and it’s not working and we need to look at something different,” said Ajay Both, a homeless advocate.

But Nanaimo’s Mayor says he and the city council got many complaints from area business owners and residents who were concerned about criminal behaviour and safety near the encampment.

“The city is left with no alternative and when the RCMP and the bylaws have to enforce, they have to enforce. The fact is there are dedicated parks available in the community where people are entitled to stay overnight,” said Krog.

Last December, Nanaimo City Council approved $380,000 in new spending to help address homelessness.

The provincial government is also creating 60 new shelter spaces, in what it calls a homeless navigation centre, with wrap-around supports.

Unlike the end of April deadline in Victoria to have everyone housed, the situation in Nanaimo won’t be solved soon.

“Would I like to see a firm commitment from the province about a time date? Yes, but is that realistic? No. Frankly, even if Victoria reaches its goal or achieves its goal with significant provincial assistance it will be exceeded by others who fall into homelessness as people inevitably do,” said Krog.

BC Housing says it and the City of Nanaimo continue to work together on the Memorandum of Agreement signed in July 2020. Through the agreement, four purpose-built supportive housing developments will be constructed to provide homes for 190 people experiencing homelessness. There will also be three affordable rental buildings with approximately 125 units.

BC Housing says it is also looking for suitable locations where additional supportive housing can potentially be built.

Meanwhile, the newly displaced Nanaimo campers say they just want somewhere to sleep indoors.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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