British Columbia

Prince George set to evict people sleeping on empty city lot

The City of Prince George is planning to evict people living in a homeless encampment set up on an empty lot near health care and support services, including a downtown supervised consumption site.

City also seeking legal injunction, amending bylaws to target 'nuisance' behaviour downtown

Community members have set up planter boxes on an empty city lot often used as a campsite for people without homes in Prince George, B.C. The city says it will serve notices of trespass to people on the site starting June 11. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

The City of Prince George is planning to evict people living in a homeless encampment set up on an empty lot near health care and support services, including a downtown supervised consumption site.

In a statement, council says it has directed city staff to pursue a civil injunction and issue notices of trespass on Friday morning to all people living on the lot.

In recent weeks, there have been calls for the city to set up a permanent homeless camp to accommodate people unable or unwilling to sleep in existing shelters.

People who choose not to use shelters say rules requiring people with addictions to not use drugs and a lack of co-ed sleeping arrangements make setting up camp the more desirable option.

They also point out the camp on a lot on George Street is located adjacent to several outreach groups, including a drop-in centre and two supervised consumption sites, one run by Northern Health and another run by the non-profit Pounds Project.

The camp is also located near several businesses, a number of which have raised concerns about open drug use, panhandling, campfires and defecation.

The city says there is unused shelter capacity and camps are posing a hazard to other downtown users.

New bylaws being considered

In addition to the civil injunction, council is considering amendments to its Safe Streets and Parks and Open Spaces bylaws at its June 14 regular meeting.

The amendments will make it easier for city staff and police to target people living on sidewalks or public spaces if they are seen using drugs, camping, littering, defecating or otherwise "engaging in a nuisance activity."

According to city staff, complaints about this type of activity has increased from 149 in 2017 to 1,786 in 2020. As of June 4, 2021, the city had already responded to 931 similar calls.

Other B.C. municipalities, including Vancouver and Victoria, have signed agreements with the province allowing them to remove homeless camps provided there is enough space in local shelters for people to move into

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

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

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