Tent city residents linger despite Tuesday 7 p.m. deadline to leave

The move-out deadline for Regina Park tent city campers passed by quietly on Tuesday evening with no sign of police moving in to arrest residents who stayed.

As night settled, many campers were resigned to relocating, although they are uncertain when that will happen and where they will go.

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A court-ordered deadline of Tuesday at 7 p.m. was set for residents to leave. Although many belongings were packed, about 90 people and their tents remained, while about 30 have departed.

Saanich and the province won an interim injunction in the Supreme Court of B.C. on Friday requiring residents to move out of the park so it can be remediated.

A Saanich police spokesman said that as of Wednesday morning, there will be police on hand around the clock and construction fencing will be installed.

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell said the municipality is working with B.C. Housing to come up with longer-term housing solutions, including the possibility of an affordable housing facility in the old Emily Carr library on Blanshard Street.

“The biggest challenge we have is there aren’t enough spaces indoors for the people living outdoors at the moment so it’s going to be a situation that we’re going to have to manage in the short-term until the monies and the facilities open their doors.”

Tent city organizer Chrissy Brett said campers do not have much choice but to comply with the court order.

The timeline to move out was too short, said Brett, who is hoping the municipality will extend it until Friday at 7 p.m.

One man said, “We are leaving. I don’t know where we are going but we are leaving.” Another said he will be going into subsidized housing.

While they waited for the next step, several campers worked on bicycles.

One said, “I’m John from nowhere.” John, who has faced addictions in the past, doesn’t know what is next. “I am a grown man. I should be able to take care of myself.”

He said he is relying on Brett. “Whereever Chrissy says, that is where we are heading.”

With 30 residents gone, there were large spaces between tents and the site was fairly tidy. Saanich Parks staff and community volunteers have been helping with clean-up and packing.

Brett said that some residents have moved into Rock Bay Landing on Ellice Street in Victoria, built for the homeless population. Others have returned to camp out in Beacon Hill Park and other parks.

A couple of residents were able to stabilize their lives to the point where they have entered treatment programs, Brett said. Others found full-time work and rental apartments, she said. B.C. Housing will likely find homes for a few more.

Geoff Green, 63, who is on a disability allowance, said, “I am hopefully going to get some housing. I am up there in the priority list because of my age.”

Couple Blair Este, 55, and Lynne Hibak, 38, are each on disability allowances and qualify for supplements but can not find a place to rent.

“I am not homeless because of lack of income. I am homeless because of lack of availability (of housing),” Este said.

One couple in their 40s, Dee and Don, remained in their tent and said they’d leave when ordered to do so by police. “We want to fight to help the cause but we don’t want to get in any trouble,” said Don.

Kim Sam, 30, surveyed her items packed in black garbage bags and wondering where she was going to take them. She said her tent had been thrown away and that she planned to sleep along the Galloping Goose trail.

Homeless people can camp in 102 Saanich parks provided their shelters are in place only between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. They can return to Regina Park during those hours once work on it is finished.

One resident whose backyard faces onto the tent city said neighbours are fed up with the intimidation and criminal activity. “I hope it comes to an end,” he said.

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