The B.C. Supreme Court is giving the occupants of the tent city 21 days to clear the camp.
“Given the length of time that the Tent City has been in place, and the precarious circumstances of many of the residents, it is important that the dismantling occur in an “orderly and sensitive fashion” and in a time frame that permits people to look for suitable alternative accommodation,” states the B.C. Supreme Court decision.
According to the court document, the tent city was established in March 2018 on Nanaimo City Hall property. Located at 1 Port Drive, it is adjacent to the Gabriola Ferry Terminal, the cruise ship terminal, a number of commercial businesses and the Port Place Mall.
Prior to the establishment of the tent city, the property was enclosed by a locked chain link fence, but on May 17, 2018, the locks were cut and a number of people entered to erect tents. Initially, there were approximately 25 tents.
The new use of the property has raised a number of concerns regarding the safety of both the occupants and surrounding Nanaimo residents. Theft, aggressive panhandling, open drug use, defecation, noise, improper discarding of used needles, the presence of weapons and presence of underage youth were just a few of the concerns listed in the B.C. Supreme Court document.
A number of notable benefits to the tent city were also raised including that tent city has become a secure place to store possessions, offered a sense of community, safer conditions for drug use, as well as gave residents access to harm reduction supplies.
In this case, the cons outweighed the pros and residents will now have to clear out. This now raises the question, where will the occupants go?
The document states that “homeless people may erect tents for temporary overnight occupation” in three public parks including Bowen Park, Pioneer Park and Colliery Dam Park.
Another solution being considered is increasing the number of available shelter spaces in comparison to the number of homeless people. According to the document, there are around 325 homeless people identified in Nanaimo.
The document states that “the number of homeless people is actually far larger when the “hidden homeless” are accounted for.” Hidden homelessness is defined as those who have temporary living accommodations or time-limited housing.
After the 21 days, should any personal property be left, the City of Nanaimo will remove and dispose of all remaining structures and items. After 21 days, RCMP have full authority to arrest and remove any person who still resides on the grounds.
Click here to review the minutes of the B.C. Supreme Court hearing.