British Columbia·Photos

Victoria tent city not gone despite court order to end homeless camp

Crews were packing up the tent city in Victoria today, but the controversial camp won't disappear completely by the judge's deadline despite a court injunction.

'Good cooperation' from campers moving to long-term housing but process isn't complete says housing minister

Crews from a demolition contractor were at Victoria's tent city Monday removing vacant tents and other belongings following a court injunction to shut down the 10-month encampment. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

The tent city that has grown on the Victoria courthouse lawn will not completely disappear today, despite a court injunction ordering residents out, said B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman.

Crews armed with large plastic containers were on site today helping people pack up their belongings and remove vacant tents and other infrastructure.

About 70 of the roughly 100 people who had been living in the tent city have been moved in the past week to long-term supportive housing at the former Central Care Home, a former seniors' facility purchased by the province in June.

"We have made excellent progress actually and we have seen very good cooperation from the campers," said Coleman in a statement. "There's no need to go for any type of an enforcement order at this point."

He noted the population is vulnerable and difficult to house, so they're being moved "at a pace that ensures it is a success for them," and housing will be provided for everyone that wants to be housed.

Coleman didn't say exactly how much longer it will take to move the remaining campers to available housing, or when it plans to enforce the court order if anyone refuses to go.

A resident gets ready to start her day at tent city on the court house lawn in Victoria, B.C., on Monday August 8. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

'It's a huge adjustment'

One of the former tent city campers said she's excited to be coming inside after years living on the street, but it will take time to get used to having walls and a door.

"It's a huge adjustment going from outside to inside," said Jaime Green, who was among the first campers on the courthouse lawn, living there from mid-November until last Tuesday.

The tent city drew so many homeless campers, because in other parks homeless people have to take down their tents every night, and carry them around all day — an exhausting process, said Green.

"This is awesome," she recalled. "We were pretty happy to not have to tear down." She used cardboard to insulate her tent from the winter rain and winds.

Jaime Green was among the early residents in the tent city, arriving in mid-November. She left last Tuesday and is still getting used to the quiet of her new home in long-term supportive housing. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

Green has lived in Victoria for 20 years, and slept in parks for the past several years while on a list for social housing.

Now, she and her partner are getting used to the echo off the walls of her room at the former Central Care Home, and the quiet when she closes her door.

"We are landed now, so we can get our footing back, on the ground," she told CBC News.

"We are still getting used to the idea of having a space that is ours, that we can lock and be safe"

People in the tent city didn't have to take down their tents every day, unlike other parks where homeless people might sleep. As a result, the structures got fortified and built up over the winter, with cardboard and other materials as 'insulation.' (Michael McArthur/CBC)

'Living hell' says neighbour

Not everyone is happy to hear the province won't force all residents out today.

Don Allen, who manages an apartment building across the street, said he has dealt with discarded needles and thefts since the camp started.

"This has been a living hell for 10 months," said Allen. "The judge's ruling was today at one o'clock, this was supposed to be gone."

Workers from a hazmat company dismantle vacant tents remaining at the tent city on the courthouse lawn in Victoria, B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

But Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps agrees with the province's approach to move people as housing is ready for them.

"Displacing them for a couple of days while the housing is being finished off makes no sense, so I think it's a very appropriate approach, and very orderly as well," said Helps.

She said there is $60-million in provincial and Capital Regional District funding over the next five years to provide more housing. The latest count showed approximately 1,300 homeless people in the region, said Helps.

"The best way to address homelessness is with housing," she said. "Now we actually have money to deal with the problem"

A shopping cart filled with plates, a colander and other personal belongings in Victoria's tent city on Monday August 8. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

With files from Megan Thomas and Mike McArthur