A rally for improved safety in Nanaimo is planned for this week after a man was shot near a homeless encampment Sunday.
The shooting shocked Nanaimo’s community safety manager, and today, a CHEK camera went into the encampment and documented why those without a home might decide to camp at the spot.
On the banks of the Millstone River, there’s privacy, you can hear the rushing of water, and you’re close to downtown services.
At the encampment, six people tried to retrieve some stolen goods Sunday and were met with gunfire.
Nanaimo’s community safety manager Dave Laberge says while bylaws officers encounter weapons at encampments, they aren’t usually guns.
“We see aerosols, we see knives, we find a lot of pellet guns and air rifles, those types of things. Occasionally we’ll find guns at homeless camps, but they’re really typically a one-off, so we’re always surprised when we do encounter them,” said Laberge.
On Sunday, Clint Smith and five others went to retrieve some tools stolen from his mechanic shop when those at the camp resisted and pulled out guns. The group scrambled to their vehicles across Terminal Avenue amid a hail of gunfire.
Someone with a shotgun was captured on video surveillance, and Smith was shot in the abdomen. He’s still in hospital and was undergoing his third surgery Wednesday afternoon.
“Shock and concern for the injured parties, of course, and I think it really exemplifies the scope of the homeless crisis that we have and the situation of the people living on the street but also the frustration of the community,” said Laberge.
He says the city did an extensive cleanup of this encampment area in September at a cost of roughly $12,000, but the area is still continuously occupied. The cleanup of this area is expensive because garbage needs to be craned or barged out because it’s so steep.
Sunday’s shooting has community members planning a public safety rally for Thursday.
“For certain, it’s a flashpoint moment,” said Collen Middleton, chair of the non-partisan Nanaimo Area Public Safety Association.
Middleton says the group appreciates the province’s efforts to increase policing and mental health and addiction supports, but more is needed.
“We really have been bearing the burden of this crisis as a civil society for a very long time now, and so we are really out of patience,” she said.
With numerous speakers planned, the rally will happen at Pearson Park at 11 a.m.
“We’ll be raising awareness not to just the problems plaguing Nanaimo at this point but clearly across the province,” added Middleton.