3 homeless campers who’ve lived in small Saanich forest for years being forced out

3 homeless campers who've lived in small Saanich forest for years being forced out
WatchA small group of homeless campers built an impressive garden in a hidden forest on the side of the highway but now they're being forced out. April Lawrence reports.

It is an impressive garden oasis complete with birdhouses, rock features, a sitting area and even a vegetable garden but you won’t find it in a backyard.

It’s part of a homeless camp in a small patch of Garry Oak forest on the side of the Patricia Bay Highway. It was started ten years ago and its three inhabitants have been living there and building it up since then.

“We have blueberries, raspberries, grapes, potatoes, etc., so we’re growing our food, harvesting in the fall,” said resident Sherry Sabourin.

Sabourin moved into the camp two years ago after fleeing an abusive relationship. She says the two other campers have become her family.

“We’re best friends, we take care of each other, of course I”m the cook around here, it’s just a happy home,” she said.

But a few days ago, the Ministry of Transporation told the group they had seven days to move out.

In a statement to CHEK News, the ministry said “a recent structure fire at the encampment has heightened concerns about safety of the campers, as well as the safety of passing drivers.”

Those who live at the camp say the fire was started by an outsider who was stopping through and would have actually been worse if not for them being nearby and able to put it out.

“I ran down here and I almost had it out before the fire department got here,” said Dave who spent 28 years working in construction and even owned a home at one time. He has been at the camp for six years.

The campers say they have nowhere else to go and the province’s offer of a downtown shelter isn’t an option.

“The scene downtown is hectic, it’s scary. There’s major heavy drug problem on the streets,” said Sabourin.

“I’d rather be in the forest than on the streets, and I think the city would rather have that too,” she said.

“Me being vacated from here adds to the problem on the street, now there’s someone sleeping in the storefront of someone else’s place right?” said Dave.

And they say they wouldn’t likely qualify for the recent offer of hotel accommodations to homeless campers in downtown Victoria.

“I need to be a heroin addict or an alcoholic, otherwise I’m not getting into them, that’s what it boils down to,” Dave said.

READ MORE: 344 Victoria homeless people housed but others say they were left out

And the thought of packing up everything they’ve built over the past few years, and possibly leaving each other, is too much to bear.

“I came with the shirt on my back and that was it, you know, and I’ve got a home now,” said Dave.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says BC Housing is working with the campers and it won’t enforce the eviction order until the trio can find somewhere else to call home.


April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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