Costs for Regina Park camp could add up to $1M

Costs associated with a five-month homeless camp at Saanich’s Regina Park could end up totalling nearly $1 million, according to a draft report from the district.

The report from finance director Valla Tinney says the estimated cost of everything from policing to remediation of the park, storage of totes containing campers’ tenting gear, and a hygiene station with showers and toilets on the grounds of Saanich municipal hall, ranges from $746,500 to $923,500.

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In July, councillors agreed to use a $700,000 contingency fund to pay for costs related to the homeless camp, but asked for more details on spending. The fund is typically used for responding to weather, such as heavy snowfalls.

“The contingency budget exists to pay for things that are unanticipated and I can’t think of a cost more unanticipated than a tent city,” Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell said Tuesday.

“If needed, allocation from other departmental operating budgets may be implemented, where they are forecasting surpluses at the end of the year. If major weather-related events occur in 2018 requiring additional funding, this will also be the approach,” the report said.

Police deployment to the site will have cost $315,000 by the end of September, and an additional $55,000 to $232,000 is estimated for October to December, a wide range that will depend on what happens next with the homeless encampment.

Camp organizer Chrissy Brett has threatened that campers will visit 100 locations in 100 days.

Atwell said he doesn’t anticipate another tent city. He said police will strictly enforce bylaws allowing only overnight camping in parks, but police enforcement may be needed if the campers go through with their 100-days plan. “It would be counter-productive,” said Atwell. “Every time I have to spend $1 million on her protests, it’s $1 million less I can put into projects dealing with [housing].”

The Regina Park camp was shut down on Sept. 13 after Saanich police enforced a B.C. Supreme Court injunction requiring the approximately 115 campers to relocate.

They spent a night at Rudd Park and a few days at a green space on Saanich’s Ravine Way before being forced out again. They set up a new camp at Goldstream Provincial Park, adjacent to Langford, on Sept. 18, where they remain.

“As the encampment situation continues to change, there is no ability to provide any real certainty about this projection,” the draft report said.

Saanich allows for overnight sheltering from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m. in 102 Saanich parks, with restrictions, for people experiencing homelessness. While the future of campers at Goldstream remains unresolved, a hygiene station and storage facility remain open on the grounds of Saanich municipal hall as a support service for those who might need to seek overnight shelter.

The establishment of that hygiene station is anticipated to cost about $169,000 by the end of the year. The monthly costs of $23,000 cover rental of the unit, security, supplies and staffing, paid for through the contingency fund.

“As the hygiene station is needed for the foreseeable future, and there are not current plans to decommission it, monthly costs will continue into 2019,” says the report.

Once the hygiene station is no longer needed, there’s a one-time cost of $29,600 to remove the trailer and equipment. While the policing, storage and park remediation costs were anticipated, Atwell said he didn’t foresee a cost to remove the hygiene station.

Remediation of Regina Park is continuing, at an expected cost of $207,000.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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