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Tent city campers pack up and leave Goldstream Park

Group misses 11 a.m. deadline as police, park rangers watch from afar
The gate to the Goldstream Provincial Park campground remains closed to the public as of noon on Oct. 2, 2018. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

Two weeks after a group of homeless campers were evicted from Regina Park in Saanich and made their way to the campground at Goldstream Provincial Park, they’re now on the move once again.

After registering for two free weeks of camping granted to disabled people, followed by police concerns that led the entire campground to be closed to the public — which in turn led to demonstrations by area residents — campers were forced to vacate the campground once again Oct. 2.

The deadline had been imposed by the province, and park rangers along with members of the RCMP were on hand Tuesday to ensure the roughly dozen campers that remained had left the park.

Housing Minister Selina Robinson said earlier that some campers had already begun moving out of the park ahead of the deadline and she expected them all to be living in new spaces.

“A plan is in place to provide shelter and housing for all homeless campers currently staying at Goldstream Provincial Park,” Robinson said in a statement from the ministry late last month.

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BC Housing and outreach staff have been working to help decamp the park and transition campers to shelter and housing.

The Victoria Native Friendship Centre opened 25 new shelter spaces Monday, although it’s unclear if all tent city residents will take advantage.

Camp spokesperson Chrissy Brett has said the group wants to stay together and are looking at their options. A number of them have sent their belongings to the friendship centre for storage.

“People are doing better being part of a community that is peer-involved and peer-led with a lot of professional support to support the people here on the ground who need support the most,” she said.

The District of Saanich has offered up land for BC Housing to build modular supportive housing for those experiencing, or at risk of homelessness. Other communities within Greater Victoria have also expressed similar interest.

“We are hopeful that by providing this land, we’re moving in the right direction to secure housing and satisfy some of the need for housing in this region,” said Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell.

Temporary overnight sheltering from dusk to dawn is also available in more than 100 Saanich parks, with some restrictions.

The campground at Goldstream Provincial Park has been closed to the public since Sept. 20. In a live video posted to her Facebook page, Brett gave the public a tour of what the campground looked like while campers were in the final stages of leaving.

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