EDITORIAL: Park paying a price for homeless crisis

The homeless situation is creating ripples felt across the Capital Region, with one of the latest waves threatening to wash over a valued piece of environmental habitat in Saanich.

Campers in Cuthbert Holmes Park are nothing new, but their numbers appear to be growing, bringing with them mounds of trash that can be found littered about the trails along with propane stoves and hypodermic needles which threaten the park and the people who use it.

Saanich council has responded by updating its bylaw in ways that allow the district to seize, remove and dispose of discarded property from local parks, with final approval a mere formality.

Cuthbert Holmes Park is especially popular among long-term campers because of its proximity to the amenities offered at Pearkes Recreation Centre, Tillicum Shopping Centre and the surrounding area.

While we are sympathetic to the plight of the local homeless population, the long-term damage being done to the park and the risks being thrust upon the park’s users and those who live nearby cannot be allowed to continued unabated.

Saanich Police Chief Bob Downie said that the wording of the approved amendments give police the authority to ask campers to leave the park the next morning. And that might be all that is needed to curtail the most serious issues facing Cuthbert Holmes Park.

Being forced to disassemble sites each night would greatly reduce the amount of debris being left behind, while eliminating the more permanent structures that encroach on the park’s habitat. It would also provide an opportunity for police and district staff to get the message out that the careless actions of some of the campers bring real consequences to those merely looking for temporary shelter in times of crisis.

We would urge local, provincial and federal authorities to do more to address the homeless crisis gripping too many Canadian cities. But until that housing is constructed, campers must respect the neighbourhoods they now call home, no matter how temporary that may be.

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