Victoria's downtown tent city showed the need to intervene earlier when public properties are taken over by protesters.

Communities struggle with tent cities

Mayors and councillors at UBCM compare strategies and seek help with campers setting up in parks and green spaces

Community leaders from around the province compared notes on dealing with homeless camps at the annual municipal convention Monday, as they await a federal strategy to improve access to low-cost housing.

While housing affordability for people receiving $375 a month housing allowance from provincial income assistance is a growing problem, people who are evicted for their behaviour or refuse to submit to shelter and supportive housing rules are the most difficult to deal with.

The province recently announced a $500 million fund to construct low-cost rental housing around the province. A forum at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria heard that mental health and addiction services also need to be expanded to offer people a way off the streets.

Chilliwack has identified 18 different camps around the community. Mayor Sharon Gaetz said she frequently hears from residents concerned about property values affected by camping in parks, despite efforts to clean up needles, feces and garbage that litter public spaces.

Surrey Coun. Dave Woods said his city has camps springing up every night, and he expects it is only a matter of time before a large one is established as happened in Victoria, Abbotsford and Maple Ridge in recent years.

The Victoria camp set up on provincial land next to the downtown courthouse and it took 10 months, a court injunction and more than 100 hastily acquired transitional housing spaces to shut it down.

One of the lessons learned from Victoria was to act quickly before camps grow large, said Greg Steves, a senior official with the B.C. government.

Dominic Flanagan, executive director of B.C. Housing, said despite its struggles, the province is seen as a leader in its “housing first” approach to dealing with mentally ill and drug addicted people. And while the public objects to “low barrier” shelters, they are needed to begin helping people get off the streets, he said.

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said B.C. Housing’s plan to buy a motel to convert to transitional housing was a good response to that community’s tent camp. But strong public opposition and that of both local MLAs resulted in it being cancelled, and construction of a purpose-built facility has delayed efforts to move people from shelters.

Lawyer James Yardley said efforts to shut down Abbotsford’s camp were complicated by a lack of clarity about how homelessness and shelter beds are defined by the courts. Abbotsford camp representatives continued to advocate for it after they were housed, and some campers refused any indoor accommodation.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton Vees comeback for overtime win to end regular season

The Vees were down 3-0 to start the third before putting together an epic comeback.

Fiery collision involving truck closes Highway 1 at Three Valley Gap

Drivers should expect major delays and congestion; estimated time of re-opening is 2 p.m.

Vees secure 4-1 win against Wenatchee

On Saturday night the Vees take on the Wild again at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Penticton massage therapist suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct

While suspended, Leonard Krekic is not entitled to practice as an RMT in B.C.

Raffle tickets sold at first two Vees playoff games raising money for CT scan machine

The playoffs commence on Feb. 27 followed by game two on Feb. 28

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Tyler Toffoli scores twice, Canucks crush Bruins 9-3

Stecher, Miller each add three points for Vancouver

Zamboni driver, 42, earns NHL win over Maple Leafs

Emergency goalie called into action for Carolina Hurricanes

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

Prolific offenders from Alberta lead RCMP on chase from Kelowna to Abbotsford

Men first reported in Chilliwack ending with allegedly stolen vehicle in an Abbotsford pond

Adapting to love along the Columbia River

One man starts a GoFundme to help his partner with health costs caused on the trip where they met

Most Read