Saanich council approves $700,000 to police homeless camp

Saanich council has approved using a $700,000 contingency fund for policing costs for an encampment at Regina Park.

The contingency fund is typically used to cover costs of unforeseen weather events such as heavy snowfalls.

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The vote was 8-1, with Mayor Richard Atwell opposed. There was also a vote asking staff for a report on how to fund ongoing costs related to Regina Park. Staff said the report could be done by the end of August but council voted to delay until the end of September, said Atwell, “and I felt the sooner we had the information the better.”

Extra costs of policing the collection of tents and shelters just off the Trans-Canada Highway, across from the Uptown shopping centre, are projected to range from $600,000 to $700,000, says a finance department report for councillors.

The Regina Park encampment began in early May as a protest against a lack of affordable housing. It has transformed into an encampment of about 90 residents.

Saanich police say their workload in the area has ballooned. From May 1 to Thursday, calls to police were at 507, compared with 294 during the same time in 2017. Property crime rose to 90 incidents from 35 in 2017.

The report estimates the final tally for tending to the tenters might reach as high as $950,000. This includes $250,000 to operate a yet-to-be-built sanitary station, with toilets and showers, and at least $10,000 to serve other calls from neighbouring residents.

On July 6, Saanich police arrested a 43-year-old woman for allegedly interfering with the Saanich Fire Department during a safety inspection.

On July 9, a Saanich resident said the tent city campers are increasingly putting the safety of the neighbourhood at risk, after he found a needle that appeared to have been deliberately stuck into his vehicle tire.

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