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Safety concerns raised about Saanich tent city

Poverty advocates protest move to shutdown Victoria area homeless camp
WATCH: The City of Saanich and the province are going to court to break up a homeless encampment, citing safety concerns, but residents say it should remain until affordable housing is available. Kylie Stanton reports.

Residents of B.C.’s three most prominent tent cities united for a joint press conference in Victoria on Monday to speak out against what they’re calling “government displacement.”

“They should step back from these attempts to destroy homeless people’s self-organizing,” Anita Place resident Ivan Drury said. “Instead they should build homes so that no one is living on the streets.”

The province and District of Saanich are proceeding with an application for a Supreme Court injunction to shut down the nearly four-month-old Camp Namegans, which is home to roughly 100 people.

Governments in Maple Ridge and Nanaimo have already taken similar steps.

READ MORE: Saanich tent city resident arrested for allegedly blasting air horn in firefighter’s ear

“Their application is just one example of the government efforts to break up tent cities before the winter begins,” Ashley Mollison with the Alliance Against Displacement said.

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Both the province and Saanich have expressed safety concerns, especially with regards to fire. But tent city residents say Namegans and other communities like it provide a new level of protection for the most vulnerable citizens.

“We feel so much safer than people on the street, being together as a community,” Nanaimo Discontent City resident Cori Mitchell said.

Also at issue is the money being spent on the legal fight.

READ MORE: Nanaimo tent city rally draws supporters, foes, but Soldiers of Odin a no-show

“Every penny of public dollars that they’re spending on these court processes to destroy the safe places that homeless people have built out of nothing,” Druly said. “Every penny of those dollars should be invested back into housing.”

In a statement, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said:

“BC Housing’s Housing Action Response Team is connecting with the campers regularly to assess housing needs and options, and assessments continue to be done with residents to determine their level of need an the most appropriate housing arrangement.”

The District of Saanich declined to comment, saying the matter was before the courts.