Homelessness an ‘issue’ on Salt Spring

Larger centres aren’t the only places with homeless issues, as shown by concerns that have arisen on Salt Spring Island.

An alleged Friday night incident on Salt Spring, in which someone took swings at a Capital Regional District bylaw officer in Centennial Park in Ganges, shows what sort of things have been happening in the area, said Don Brown, the CRD’s chief bylaw officer.

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It is not known if the man believed to be responsible is homeless, but he was part of a group that had been at the park, said Salt Spring Island Electoral Area director Gary Holman.

The man also tried to hit the bylaw officer with a football thrown from behind the officer, Brown said. The throw missed because someone yelled a warning.

The man was arrested, and allegedly resisted police attempts to handcuff him. A 36-year-old is scheduled to appear in court in January 2021.

Brown said another man was also arrested by police after an alleged assault of two bylaw officers about a month ago.

The CRD has only one full-time bylaw officer on Salt Spring, he said, with funding now in place for some part-time help.

Holman said Salt Spring has been dealing with homelessness for some time.

“We do have a homeless issue here, I guess as many communities do, and there is a public-disorder issue in Centennial Park specifically.”

Rob Grant of Salt Spring Community Services estimated the island’s homeless population at 80 to 100.

“I think every community struggles with it.”

Just like elsewhere, he said that mental health and addictions are part of the issue.

Brown said Centennial Park is a popular community greenspace on Salt Spring, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a large group of people has been gathering there. “They’ve almost taken over the park.”

Some, but not all, are homeless, Brown said.

“They bring their boom boxes and they bring their drugs and they bring their alcohol.”

He said many Salt Spring residents have said they are afraid to go the park. “It’s become quite an issue.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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