Dozens of people, supporting or living in a tent encampment in Nanaimo, rallied Tuesday to protest the city’s decision to serve eviction notices.
Nanaimo city council passed a motion Friday, during an in-camera meeting, to issue trespass notices to residents of the so-called DisconTent City on city-owned land.
“The city’s effort to break down the camp shows they’re not erasing homelessness, they’re ignoring it,” rally supporter Mercedes Courtoreille said.
“They’re continuing to displace people and push them back to the woods where they don’t have to see them or deal with them and then also the city isn’t held accountable for their actions towards people experiencing homelessness.”
Courtoreille and several tent city campers agreed the solution is more affordable housing, over what they call institutionalized supportive housing.
“In supportive housing you have to give up your rights as a tenant, it’s really really unsafe,” Courtoreille said.
“This is a housing crisis, it needs to be treated like a crisis.”
The city asked for police assistance to take action, including asking occupants to leave the area but Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay says no one has been forced to leave at this time.
He says they will consider ticketing in the coming days and may hand out an injunction if necessary.
McKay said he sympathizes with those who are unable to find housing, adding councillors sought an injunction to remove the camp to prevent similar scenarios as seen in Victoria and Vancouver where homeless camps became entrenched.
“The occupants have been provided areas within the city where they are permitted to have overnight shelter between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9 a.m.,” McKay said in a statement.
If the approximately 50 campers who set up tents about two weeks ago across from a downtown Nanaimo shopping mall don’t pack up, they could face court action, with the city threatening a civil injunction in B.C. Supreme Court.
“There’s a pretty amazing community that’s been created here of people that love and support each other and just want to keep each other safe,” Courtoreille said.
“We’ve got supporters here from around B.C. and we stand united with the other tent cities in B.C. that are fighting the same fight; this isn’t a local issue.”
~ With files from The Canadian Press