British Columbia

Homeless campers in Saanich., B.C., move to space behind fire department

A group of homeless campers in Saanich have moved again, this time from private property to provincial land behind a Saanich fire hall.

New encampment is on provincial land adjacent to Highway 17 north of Victoria

Homeless campers had been camped on this private property since Oct. 2 before moving to a new spot behind the Saanich Fire Department's hall No. 1. (Sam Seera)

Police say a group of homeless campers in Saanich, B.C. have moved — again.

This time, the group of campers have set up on a parcel of land directly behind the Saanich Fire Department's hall No. 1  adjacent to Highway 17. The land is owned by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Saanich Police say they have contacted the Ministry to alert them of the new encampment.

The move to provincial land marks the fifth since the campers were evicted from Saanich's Regina Park in early September.

Tight housing market

The District of Saanich is a municipality in the Greater Victoria area on Vancouver Island with a population of just over 114,000. The district website describes the area as "the second most expensive real estate market in Canada" with an "extremely low rental vacancy rate" at 0.4 per cent.

The provincial government announced a $90-million investment into new rental housing in the Greater Victoria District in May, but these units — 2,010 in total — will take years to open.

In a statement to CBC News, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said "shelter was offered to all of the homeless campers, unfortunately, while some took up the offer, the majority turned down the offered shelter spaces."

"Their new location in Saanich is not a workable or long-term solution for anyone. Highway land is not a safe location for camping, and campers will be asked to leave the highway right of way."

It says it will continue to offer campers help accessing shelter or other supports as they work on long-term housing. 

Timeline

April — The camp of around 100 residents forms in Saanich's Regina Park.

Sept. 7 — The B.C. Supreme Court grants the district a temporary injunction to evict the homeless campers from Regina Park

Sept 11 — Official deadline for campers to vacate Regina Park. Campers disperse peacefully, with the last camper leaving Regina Park on Sept. 14.

Sept 14 — Hours after Regina Park is cleared, around 30 of the displaced campers arrive at a different area in Saanich, Rudd Park, and set up camp.

Police evacuate the park and campers move to a new site — a green space between Ravine Way and Carey Road owned by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Sept 18 — The Ministry asks police to evict the campers from the space due to safety concerns.

The remaining campers then move to Goldstream Provincial Park. B.C. Parks almost immediately shuts down the park.

Oct. 2 — As provincial parks have a maximum 14-day stay, the campers move again, this time to a private property along West Saanich Road.

Oct. 13 — Campers move to provincial land owned by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure behind the Saanich Fire Department's hall No. 1.

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