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Province clears land, breaks up View Royal homeless camp

Housing found for most of campers

The Ministry of Transportation is clearing land between the Trans-Canada Highway and Burnside Road West in a move the mayor of View Royal hopes will dissuade homeless campers from setting up tents again.

David Screech said the town has been asking the ministry to clear the land of brush for years, as it provided cover for a makeshift campground.

Screech said the camp, which is beyond the municipality’s jurisdiction, has been built up over several years, creating ongoing problems.

“There have been at least two fires there in the last few years with things like exploding propane tanks, which is obviously dangerous for our firefighters,” he said. “The amount of material that was in there was beyond belief, and now they have cleared it out, trimmed the underbrush and tried to make it not quite such an attractive place to set up a camp.”

Screech said there have also been reports of petty crime in the immediate area.

“It’s been difficult and we’ve been working with Highways pretty closely and we’re really glad to see that they’ve finally taken care of it,” he said.

Screech said there were probably six or seven people living in the triangular bank of land just off the highway, with well-established structures and plenty of material.

Amid the wreckage of the camp was heat ducting, propane tanks, bicycle parts, seating from a vehicle and camping and cooking gear.

Screech said he understands some of the campers have since been housed, though it appears at least one wanted no part of provincial social housing.

“That person had been offered housing multiple times over the years and had declined it,” he said. “The outreach team from B.C. Housing had been to that site several times over the years and tried to work with him and he just was not interested.”