Modular housing for Nanaimo tent city residents set to arrive next week

Temporary modular housing is scheduled to arrive in Nanaimo late next week to provide shelter for residents of a soon-to-be-disbanded tent city.

The modular structures were used as workforce housing prior to B.C. buying them to house homeless citizens while it prepares plans to establish permanent units. The units are being shipped from Fort St. John and the province hopes they will be available for use by the end of November. The tent city must close by Friday.

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“Once the units are serviced, they will be moved to the sites and readied for people to move in,” a Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing statement said Tuesday.

The province has spent $3.6 million to buy the modular units and a lot in Nanaimo. A total of 170 units of housing will be located on two sites: at 250 Terminal Ave. and on city owned land at 2020 Labieux Rd. Another 40 to 50 units of market rental housing, with rent supplements provided, will be lined up for homeless people.

Housing Minister Selina Robinson expects the housing will fill the needs of all the residents of DisconTent City. The exact number of residents is not clear and it fluctuates, but some estimates put it as high as 300 to 350.

The tent city has been in place for five months and has grown to be the largest in the province.

On Friday, when the province announced it was providing the housing, some tent-city residents, along with a group of housing advocates from Surrey-based Alliance Against Displacement, broke into and occupied the vacant Rutherford Elementary.

Three people left the building at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday and were arrested. Later that morning, police moved in, using the Vancouver Island tactical response unit, Vancouver Island emergency response, other officers and police dogs. By 2 p.m. everyone had been arrested.

On Saturday and Sunday, 26 of the 27 people arrested were released from police custody on promises to appear in Nanaimo provincial court on Dec. 11. They have been charged with break-and-enter and mischief.

One man was held in custody until Tuesday because of outstanding warrants on other criminal matters, Nanaimo RCMP Const. Gary O’Brien said.

The school district has added security to its schools. The chairman of the board estimates that damage to Rutherford school will total about $100,000.

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