Fencing around the Topaz Park encampment went up temporarily on Thursday and was removed on Friday morning after bylaw officers conducted a sweep of the camp.
A week ago, campers were relocated from the area of a new turf field to a spot close to the skate park.
Neighbours said it was to make way for a photo op with the mayor and Victoria Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming for the field opening, although the City of Victoria said it was because the tenters were in an area covered by a permit for the Highland Games, which are being held in the park this weekend.
A camper who gave her name as Amanda said the majority of her belongings were confiscated in the Friday morning sweep by bylaw officers. She was left with just a tarp to sleep under, according to another camper, Cailin.
Amanda had recently been kicked out of the Muncey Place supportive housing facility at 3020 Blanshard St., said Cailin.
The fencing erected Thursday was to protect those sheltering in Topaz Park, said Victoria spokesperson Colleen Mycroft.
The city removed the fencing surrounding the encampment at around 11 a.m. Friday.
“We wouldn’t keep up fencing unnecessarily,” Mycroft said.
“If folks that were sheltering there have chosen to move on, then we would remove the fencing.”
“Probably another half of the reason is because they didn’t want to look like they were [expletive] herding us all in one area like cattle,” Cailin said. “That doesn’t look very good.”
Bylaw officers may not have been aware that more than a dozen campers had already returned to the skate park area by Friday afternoon, said Mycroft.
Cailin, who said she was also evicted from Muncey Place, said she has been living in Topaz Park for the past 18 months.
“Once in a while, they kick everyone off the block,” Cailin said. “Everyone gets shuffled around.”
The right to erect overnight shelter in parks was established in a 2008 B.C. Supreme Court decision. Bylaws in Victoria permit sheltering in parks between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., with some restrictions stipulating that shelters be set up away from schools, playgrounds, property lines, landscaping and footpaths.
In April, about 100 people marched down Pandora street to Victoria City Hall calling for the end of “street sweeps,” the daily enforcement of the city’s sheltering policies by bylaw and police officers.
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