A large and often passionate crowd packed Saanich council chambers on Thursday evening to voice their opinions about a growing tent city in the district.
“Our community is in crisis,” said Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell at the outset.
“I’m not only referring to Regina Park, but the crisis of homelessness in our community at large.”
Some 75 people now live in tents set up two months ago in the park on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway near the Uptown Shopping Centre.
The District served campers with a notice to vacate two weeks ago but that, so far, has had no effect
Roughly two dozen speakers approached the podium to share their fears and frustrations with council.
Several people who live near Regina Park demanded to know why bylaws aren’t being enforced allowing the encampment to stay and grow.
“We have no privacy in our backyard, we have young children in the home, there is swearing and cursing at nighttime,” said one neighbour
“I’ve had to call the police many times, in the middle of the night, its not the way to live.”
One tent city resident spoke of the desperate need for more affordable housing, he told council he’d grown up not far from where he now sleeps rough.
“I’ve been homeless off and on for ten years,” he said, his voice breaking with emotion.
“Sure i have my issues, but there’s nothing we can do when there’s no rentals, when there’s no housing.”
Many of the speakers drew parallels between this encampment and the one set up on the lawn of the provincial courthouse in Victoria nearly three years ago.
It took nearly a year to was dismantle and cost the province an estimated 3 million dollars.
Mayor Atwell told the audience that the District is committed to putting an end to the Regina Park encampment.
“We’re doing our best to address immediate problem about the conflict that exists in this neighbourhood,” he said.
“The solution is housing and its going to take time to build it.”
There was agreement on Council that it needs to pursue possible short-term solutions with BC Housing including modular housing.
“I know there is money out there,” said Atwell.