WATCH: Tensions rise in Saanich as the displacement of homeless campers from Regina Park causes conflict at nearby Rudd Park. Tess van Straaten reports.
Saanich’s Rudd Park is a popular place for children to play. But many parents in the area are worried, now that more than a dozen homeless campers have gone there after being removed from nearby Regina Park.
“I’m very concerned,” says Louise Williams. “I have three small children, the oldest of whom is six and spends his entire day in the park if he’s given the chance and right now I’ve told him it’s closed until further notice and he’s devastated.”
Rudd Park is one of more than 100 parks in Saanich that allows overnight camping for the homeless. Tents have to come down during the day, but the campers are allowed to stay in the park.
“I’m worried about what they’re going to leave behind,” says mother of two Lindsay Edgar. “I’m worried about essentially the safety of my kids at the playground.”
Parents say they’re already found human excrement and they’re worried about needles, garbage, vandalism and crime.
A daycare also borders the park along with a community hall, which has several youth-groups and non-profits as tenants.
“A lot of them are threatening to move and it would be devastating for our hall,” says Eastern Star Hall president Wendy MacLeod. “We understand the plight of the homeless, however they need to understand our plight as well — that whatever their occupation does falls directly upon as a negative impact.”
The campers say Saanich Police told them to come to Rudd Park after they were forced out of Regina Park on Thursday, due to a court injunction.
But camp organizers say they don’t plan to stay at Rudd Park and they’re looking to move to other Saanich parks, or even different municipalities next.
“Oak Bay isn’t off the table and neither is the West Shore,” says camp organizer Chrissy Brett. “There are 100 parks we have yet to camp in and I think 100 parks in 100 days makes a pretty big statement.”
But tensions are rising and Brett says so, too, is the “homeless hate”.
“We were attacked with someone driving by and shooting a firework towards our tents, not up in the air,” says Brett. “Tent fires are something homeless people fear and that was pretty scary.”
“We’re all struggling with this because of the court decision,” Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell says.
The B.C. Supreme court ruling on overnight camping means municipalities can’t stop the homeless from camping if they have nowhere else to go.
“If we have issues in the park where it’s unclean or it’s an issue of safety then we need to know about it and if residents are saying we’re not responding fast enough, then we will do a better job,” says Atwell.