British Columbia

Homeless advocate says she was warned away from camp the night 3 died in woods near Whiskey Creek

A Qualicum Beach, B.C., woman who delivers drug overdose antidote kits and blankets to people living in the bush says she received a phone call warning her to avoid the Whiskey Creek area on Halloween night. By the next day three people were found dead.

Kelly Morris blames targeted deaths on community that 'shoves' homeless out, offers no treatment

Kelly Morris says she tries to help people who live 'rough' in the bush across the Inland Island Highway from seaside communities on Vancouver Island. (CHEK TV)

A Qualicum Beach, B.C., woman who delivers overdose antidote kits and blankets to people living in the bush on Vancouver Island says she got a phone call last Saturday from someone who warned her to stay away from the Whiskey Creek area where three people were found dead the next day.

Kelly Morris is convinced she's safe because somebody was "watching her back" because of her work helping people living on the fringes of society.

"I am hoping this will change something. I'm sorry that the tragic deaths of these people had to happen in order to make change," said peer support worker.

On Sunday afternoon a dirt biker found a man lying face down on Melrose Forest Service Road. The man was later pronounced dead at the scene. Further investigation revealed two burned out trailers with two dead adults inside one of them.  A fourth man was found shot in the shoulder.

Oceanside RCMP haven't identified the victims of what they are calling targeted killings. The Integrated Major Crime Unit has taken over the investigation in a rural area west of Coombs, located north of Nanaimo.

The two adults found in the burned trailer will probably need to be identified using DNA or dental records, according to investigators.

The area is close to a summer tourist hotspot.

A burned out trailer near Whiskey Creek where two bodies were found in a gravel pit area north of Nanaimo, B.C., on Vancouver Island. (CHEK TV)

'Feeding ground for predators'

Morris said one of the men killed was a person she'd helped. He had struggled with addiction and crime.

"He's hurt people. People fear him out here," said Morris. 

Morris said she visits 16 encampments in the area where people live after being "shoved" out of Parksville or Qualicum Beach.

She delivers naloxone kits, warm clothes and sometimes negotiates with campers to clean up used needles in exchange for food or cigarettes.

It's estimated that dozens if not more people live in the bush areas around Parksville and Qualicum Beach. Some set up in trailers on rural lots, others camp 'rough.' (CHEK TV)

"The addicts have nowhere to go but the bush. And when they go out in the bush and they get high and some of them are on medication, you know they can't fight back. It becomes a feeding ground for predators," said Morris.

She said that she began volunteering as a peer support worker six years ago when she got her first home after being sober for three years. Before that, she'd been on the street since she was 12, but was helped by the local Treatment Pathways Oceanside Committee to change her life.

To pay back that help, she sometimes offers people her home as a place to detox. There she says they can watch Netflix, pet her cats and get clean enough for her to deliver them to a self-referral treatment centre in Vancouver.

She believes she's helped more than 140 people with the support of a local doctor.

"We've tried to get help for them but have been denied in this town. People are saying these [bush camps] don't exist. Well they do,and these people exist." 

RCMP block the road into the area near Whiskey Creek, B.C., where three bodies and a fourth injured person were discovered. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

She said there's no homeless shelter in the area and there can be a seven-week wait for addiction treatment. 

The encampments are not in the municipal limits of Qualicum Beach or Parksville.

Leanne Salter, the area director for the Nanaimo Regional District, told CBC that the region is concerned about the growing number of people living "rough" in the area of the killings.

Qualicum Mayor Brian Wiese agrees more provincial funding and supports are needed.

"The ones that are having some drug issues and need treatment because they have nowhere to go — nowhere," said Wiese, adding: "I never in a million years thought we'd have a triple homicide."

RCMP have not called it that yet — but the homicide investigation team has been called in.

Wiese said that he's been told by police that the incident was isolated and those involved were known to police.

"It bites at the back of your neck with something this grisly happening so close to home," he said.

 

About the Author

Yvette Brend is a Vancouver journalist. Yvette.Brend@cbc.ca or on Twitter or Instagram @ybrend

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