Homeless campers in Nanaimo’s tent city have been given an extra week in their encampment at 1 Port Drive.
Campers had initially been ordered to vacate the lot by Friday, after B.C. Supreme Court granted the city an injunction last month and gave residents of Discontent City three weeks to clear out.
The campers’ lawyer has filed an application with the court for an extension on the eviction, which will be heard at 9 a.m. next Friday.
Nanaimo city council has now agreed to hold off on the initial eviction date until that application can be heard in court.
Noah Ross, the campers’ lawyer, says they are asking the court to delay the eviction until Nov. 30, when new temporary housing for Nanaimo will come online.
“There’s been a change in circumstanes since the last order,” Ross said.
“The province has gone ahead and announced the establishment of 170 units of modular housing and also recommended that the city leave the camp open until that time so that services can be provided to the people at camp and there will be an orderly transition to housing for most of the campers.”
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The City of Nanaimo says the closure of the camp remains a priority, and Nanaimo mayor Bill McKay said council will discuss its response to the tent city’s application on Monday.
In response to the campers’ argument that they should be left in place until new housing is ready, McKay said the timeline to move out was the judge’s decision.
“He did give them three weeks based on a number of his views of the people that were there; it was the judge’s order that they be off that site,” McKay said.
“So he did give that consideration about the lack of housing. And I wish I could wave a magic wand and create housing instantly, but I can’t.”
Last week, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced 170 units of temporary housing for Nanaimo, some of it on city land, along with rent subsidies for about 50 people. The housing is to be completed by the end of next month.
The housing will be dorm-style trailers akin to those used in work camps. Some of the camp residents have said they are not happy with what is being offered.
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About 300 people have been living at the Discontent City camp since it was set up on May 17.
The camp’s presence has caused friction with some local residents, and there have been several tense demonstrations involving supporters of both sides.
Earlier this month, a group of activists and camp residents occupied a vacant school in Nanaimo, and were arrested the following day.
Some camp residents said the squatters did not represent them, and risked harming their cause with the local community.