Leaders of Camp Namegans, the homeless camp at Regina Park that housed nearly 100 people, say the camp residents have dispersed.
At a Thursday evening press conference, about 20-30 campers and supporters gathered at a playground at nearby Taylor Park to address the media. Afterwards remaining campers walked together towards Rudd Park to set up camp overnight while they plan their next move.
Camp leader Chrissy Brett said former residents will return to Regina Park tomorrow to continue packing their belongings.
Ashley Mollison of Alliance Against Displacement said she did not know where most of the campers went, as they had been isolated from each other during the move. Brett said campers likely moved to other places like Pandora Ave. if they could not find shelters.
Brett said overall, Saanich Police was less compassionate than the Victoria Police, though she praised some Saanich officers for treating campers well.
Anna Cooper, a lawyer with Pivot Legal Society who said she “watched people’s dignity being violated all day today,” referring to the actions of Saanich Police officers.
Cooper said officers had “the audacity to ask a woman who was crying what she was upset about when that police officer was there to forcibly evict her from the only home she had 15 minutes later. This is completely unworkable.”
“We’re just going to keep having a cycle of tent cities until we find a better answer than this,” said Cooper.
Lawyer Noah Ross of Huntsman Law, representing DisconTent City in Nanaimo, said it was “wrongheaded public policy” to ask campers to move, because with no room in shelters, people would just have to move to another park which served neither the interests of the homeless community or the greater community.
Several campers spoke about their experience, expressing both sadness at their eviction and frustration at the lack of affordable housing in the city. Justin Funk, a camp resident, said he busked to earn money and decried businesses for asking to leave as customers were still free to enter and shop.
“I’m very tired right now,” said another camper. “We all just want a place to live.”
Neighbour Kathy Marier, leaning on her fence and watching the camp residents move their belongings, said she was relieved. She said camp residents were using her garden hose and had stolen belongings from neighbour’s yards.
“We’ve been so frustrated and now they’ve actually did what they said what they were going to do and get our community back to normal.”
The campers will rally at 5 p.m. tomorrow at the Regina Park parking lot, and “we may go for a small walk, and end with a rally, possibly at the [Saanich] Municipal Hall,” said Brett.