With nowhere to go, residents of the Saanich homeless camp forced out of their Carey Road location alongside Highway 17 Tuesday are at a standstill.
Together Against Poverty Society, a Victoria-based legal advocacy organization rented two U-Hauls to assist campers with moving their belongings. The residents had intended to return to Rudd Park where they had camped previously, but were turned away by police upon arrival at approximately 1 p.m. Tuesday.
“We went to Rudd, turned away, we are told to go to any park but can’t bring chattel so we don’t know what to do,” said Blair Este, a resident of the camp now calling themselves Namegans Nation.
The tent city residents left Rudd when told they could not bring in any “chattel” other than what is on their backs.
In a tweet Tuesday morning, Saanich police said “temporary overnight sheltering can occur from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m.” with a list of more than 100 parks in the municipality where camping is legal overnight.
Mainroad South Island Contracting LP, a contractor for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, under whose jurisdiction the Carey Road lands fall, erected black fencing in order to keep people out after Saanich police cordoned the area off with police tape earlier Tuesday.
In a statement emailed to Black Press, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said the safety of the campers as well as the 26,000 people who drive along that stretch of Highway 17 are “our first priority.”
The ultimate goal is to get people into shelters and longer-term housing, the statement read, adding the ministry is working with non-profit partners to open winter shelters “as soon as possible” at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre.
Update from Carey Rd where the tent city occupants are on the curb with their belongings and “nowhere to go.” pic.twitter.com/sbPLvs00PS
— Saanich News (@saanichnews) September 18, 2018
As well, the ministry said it is working on “distributing rent supplements to help people find housing in the private market.”
“This situation continues to show that people do not have enough affordable and supportive housing options in the region. Solving this challenge in the region will require local governments to partner with the provincial government by identifying sites for supportive housing.”
Camp leader Chrissy Brett said the intention is to park the U-Hauls at Rudd Park to discuss the next step for campers.
“The important thing is to keep those people that are still here together,” said camp leader Chrissy Brett. “People who have left have plans to rejoin our group as soon as we resettle to wherever it is we’re going.”
– With files from Travis Paterson