British Columbia

'They just kept on coming': Saanich homeless camp sets up on private property

When Sam Seera got a call from Saanich Bylaw on Tuesday, the last thing he expected to hear was that around 20 homeless campers were setting up tents on his one-acre property on West Saanich Road.

Owner is taking legal action to have the camp evicted

Homeless campers moved in tents, trailers and shelters onto Sam Seera's property on Oct 2, 2018. (Sam Seera)

When Sam Seera got a call from the Saanich bylaw department on Tuesday, the last thing he expected to hear was that around 20 homeless campers were setting up tents on his one-acre property on West Saanich Road.

"It was unbelievable," said Seera, who hopped in his car and drove to the property that he rents out.

"People were just coming in. I tried to stop them, but they just kept on coming."

When Seera called Saanich police, he was told it couldn't do anything because the campers had been invited.

That invitation came from Saanich mayoral candidate David Shebib. The problem is Shebib doesn't own the property, nor is he on the lease. However, Shebib's son has rented the property from Seera for the last 10 years.

Seera says Shebib sometimes lives in the house with his son.

"I guess it's his way of trying to help the homeless, but I don't think he's going about it the right way," said Seera to All Points West host Robyn Burns.

The CBC reached out to Shebib on numerous occasions for comment but never received a response.

By day's end, Seera counted 25 homeless campers claiming a piece of his land without permission.

Homeless campers were kicked out of an encampment in Goldstream Park due to a court-ordered eviction. (Michael Mcarthur/CBC)

An open invitation

Over the last month, the homeless campers have been moving from one pop-up encampment to the next.

When a judge granted the District of Saanich an injunction against a homeless camp in Regina Park, it saw campers pack up and head out for a new place to stay.

They moved into Goldstream Provincial Park. But their time there was limited to 14 days, which is the maximum stay at all provincial parks. 

That's when Shebib invited the campers to stay on the property where he sometimes lives.

Upset tenants

Shebib's son, Andrew Maclean is on the lease for the property, yet he wasn't even aware of his father's offer to the campers says Seera.

Shebib rents the property to Maclean who lives onsite. Maclean also sub-leases numerous units to other tenants.

Although Maclean declined an interview with the CBC, Seera says he and the other tenants aren't pleased with the influx of people on the property.

"The tenants there are upset because they've got 25 people coming into the house using their bathroom."

Campers refuse to leave

Seera says he asked the campers to leave, but they refused.

"They said they'd been invited and that I had no right to stop them," said Seera.

Camp organizer Chrissy Brett says they don't intend on leaving until after the election Oct. 20, which was the length of Sheeba's invitation.

As for Seera, he says he is proceeding with legal actions to have the campers removed from his property.

"I feel for these people. It's not going to give me any joy to drag them off my property, but I am not the government," said Seera.

"Maybe they should be tenting on government land but using me is totally unfair."

Saanich police says it's closely monitoring the camp.

"The District of Saanich is investigating the camp as a potential violation of Saanich Zoning Bylaw 8200, and the Saanich Police Department is exploring options through the Trespass Act and the Residential Tenancy Act," it said in a statement.

It says it's committed to ensuring the safety of all those impacted by this camp.

With files from Liz McArthur

You can listen to the full interview below;

Read more from CBC British Columbia

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said a court-ordered eviction forced the homeless campers out of Goldstream Provincial Park. In fact, the campers moved after reaching the 14-day maximum stay that applies to all provincial parks.
    Oct 05, 2018 11:57 AM PT

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