British Columbia

Prince George adopts centralized homeless camp to combat spread of shelters elsewhere

The city will direct overnight campers to a single site, known as Moccasin Flats, with enhanced security for the surrounding neighbourhood.

Under new policy, anyone setting up shelters in the community will be directed to move to Moccasin Flats site

Two trailers being used as homes sit side by side in the snow.
The Moccasin Flats homeless camp was established in Prince George in 2021. In March 2023, the city adopted a centralized encampment approach that will establish Moccasin Flats as the only place in the community where overnight sheltering is allowed. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

 UPDATE — April 13, 2023: On April 12, Prince George city councillors voted to postpone a final decision on the centralized encampment model. They also postponed a decision about adding security patrols to the area. A date has not yet been set for the matter to return to council. The original release detailing the centralized encampment model said the idea had been unanimously approved by council, but council still had to vote "in favour of final reading and adoption."


Prince George city council has voted to establish a centralized homeless camp that will be designated as the only space where people can set up shelters in a move one councillor calls "the least worst option" available.

The decision is a reversal of the position taken by council last summer and marks the city's latest attempt to deal with homelessness in the community while also responding to concerns about public safety and crime from people who live around encampments.

Under the new policy, anyone setting up shelters around the community will be directed to move to the site at Lower Patricia Boulevard on the outskirts of the downtown core that has come to be known as Moccasin Flats.

That camp was first established in the summer of 2021 on a lot owned by the city along a dirt and gravel road. On one side, its neighbours are businesses and light industry. On the other, there is an embankment leading up to a residential neighbourhood known as the Millar Addition.

The city attempted to shut the camp down in the fall of 2021 by filing a court injunction to remove the campers. But in a ruling delivered in October, Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson found the city had failed to show there was adequate shelter available for campers to move into, and so the encampment would be allowed to stay. 

That decision was upheld in a February 2022 decision when Justice Simon R. Coval said the city "inflicted serious harms on vulnerable people" and violated Hinkson's ruling when crews demolished several shelters in that camp.

However, the Hinkson ruling did explicitly say the city could shut down other camps and direct people taking shelter there to move into Moccasin Flats.

Safety concerns from campers

In the months since, Moccasin Flats has become more established, with tents being replaced by trailers and local service groups setting up port-a-potties.

The peer-support organization, Uniting Northern Drug Users Undu'ing Stigma (UNDU), has also established a warming and wellness trailer on-site, along with supplies including water and naloxone kits for reversing overdoses.

It's estimated between 20 and 30 people are currently living there, with more likely to move in as the weather warms.

A wooden sign on the door of a trailer says Donations Accepted and UNDU — Outreach, Harm reduction.
A warming trailer in Moccasin Flats has been set up by the organization, Uniting Northern Drug Users Undu'ing Stigma (UNDU), to provide safety and support to people living in the encampment over the winter months. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Meanwhile, another new camp has been established in Millennium Park along First Avenue, prompting complaints from nearby businesses, as well as Coun. Brian Skakun, who worried about the impact on the nearby regional district offices.

Speaking to CBC News Tuesday, a resident of the camp, who identified herself as Anna, said she preferred the site to Mocassin Flats because there were fewer people and fewer risks to her safety as a result. She and another camper were unhappy with the idea they may be forced to move elsewhere, saying they felt like it would make it easier for them to be targeted.

Report recommends Moccasin flats as the sole spot for overnight public camping

But at Moccasin Flats, a resident said it would be better for people to move there as service providers check on the people living there and there are more supports available.

Juls Budău, a UNBC master's student and wellness trailer manager at the UNDU site, said there are complex opinions from unhoused people about where they would like to live for their own safety.

Budău said while she understood the desire to clean up other parks, forcing everyone into one place presents its own problems.

They might be trying to avoid predators, abusive people," she said in an interview on CBC Daybreak North. "I think that trying to kettle people into one place might be problematic."

Ending homelessness a 'pipe dream': safety manager

Director of public safety Adam Davey told council that by adopting a centralized camp option, Moccasin Flats could be established as the only place where overnight camping would be allowed, giving bylaw workers the opportunity to dismantle shelters set up at other locations in the community.

A jumble of bikes in the snow lie on the ground next to a couple of tents covered in tarp.
A camp in Millennium Park along First Avenue will be shut down under the new policy. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Davey said that although two court rulings had established the city would not be allowed to tear down Moccasin Flats until there was enough suitable shelter elsewhere in the community, what would constitute "suitable" had not been defined, and so it was likely a "pipe dream" that it could be achieved.

With that in mind, council voted unanimously in favour of the motion, saying their hands were tied by the court orders.

The 'least worst option': councillor

"There's no perfect solution," said Coun. Cori Ramsay, adding that she lives near the camp and has had personal belongings stolen, so she knows the impact it has on the surrounding neighbourhood. But she said the status quo wasn't working, so she was prepared to move forward with trying a centralized model. 

Other councillors took a similar stance, even those who had voted against a centralized camp option when it was presented as an option in July of 2022. 

A man poses, smiling, in front of an office window.
Prince George Mayor Simon Yu says the centralized camp model is a temporary solution as the city works to find appropriate shelter for those living in tents. (Nadia Mansour/CBC)

"I made a mistake," Skakun said of his vote against that option last year because the result was other encampments being established while Coun. Garth Frizzell said, "It's not the best solution, but it's the solution we have."

Coun. Kyle Sampson was reluctant to support Mocassin Flats as the site for a centralized camp, saying it was too far away from service providers, but given the lack of other options also supported the motion as the "least worst option" available.

He also proposed a motion, unanimously supported, that the city look into options for enhancing security in and around the camp through increased RCMP patrols and possible video surveillance in partnership with nearby businesses.

Several councillors also stressed that the people living in the camp are citizens and deserve support and compassion.

"We need to try our best to know every single person in there," said Mayor Simon Yu, adding the ultimate goal would be to help them move into appropriate housing.

"This is a temporary measure."


Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and, situated in unceded Lheidli T'enneh territory in Prince George. You can email him at You can also send encrypted messages using Signal or iMessage to 250.552.2058.