British Columbia

Nelson campsite to close, but some residents can't find homes

“Living in a campground isn’t a home,” says a local advocate, but there aren’t many alternatives in a city with a vacancy rate of less than one per cent.

Mayor says site not set up for winter camping, but advocate says too few housing options in city

A view of Nelson, B.C., from a nearby mountain. A campsite in the city is shutitng down in coming weeks, but residents there say they have nowhere to go. (Shawn/Flickr)

A number of people living in a campground in Nelson, B.C. — including several families — will have to find new accommodations after city council voted to shut it down for the winter.

Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak says the decision to close the campground for the winter took place at a council meeting Monday night.

"The campground itself is not set up for winter operations," Kozak said.

"The sewer, water — all of those are set up for summer operations only. We also were concerned about other services that would be needed as well."

Kozak says the people in the campground are looking for housing in the surrounding area, either to own or rent.

Derek Yungblutt, who manages the camp for the city, says there are still about six or seven people living in the camp as of Wednesday. Several families have had to leave town since the closure was announced.

He says most of them have jobs in the area but were being outbid on homes or couldn't find suitable accommodations.

Kozak says she's hopeful that media coverage of the campers will prompt realtors and others to help connect those who remain with housing.

Advocate: vacancy rate less than one per cent

But Jenny Robinson, executive director of the non-profit group Nelson Cares, says that's easier said than done in a town where the rental vacancy rate is less than one per cent.

"It's pretty tough for people in our community and folks looking to move here to find housing," she told Radio West guest host Josh Pagé.

"We've seen this advancing for about a decade, but in the last three years it's been really tough. I don't think we're in a position where that's going to change."

Robinson says there aren't many new housing projects planned for the area, and growing population and poverty in the region are putting pressure on what is already there.

"Living in a campground isn't a home," she said, adding that keeping the site open is not a long-term solution. 

She says Nelson Cares is working with one person from the campground to find housing.

The camp in Nelson is scheduled to close Oct. 22.

With files form CBC Radio One's Radio West

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Nelson campsite to close, but residents can't find homes