An encampment located on land between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue on-ramp – where an early morning fire was sparked in January – has been cleared and the residents have been relocated.
Provincial staff and Saanich officials had been monitoring the encampment for some time and, after several small fires in 2020, the residents were asked to vacate due to safety concerns – however, the eviction wasn’t enforced because BC Housing was working to connect with the campers.
But just after 4 a.m. on Jan. 14, a fire sparked at the “well-entrenched encampment” on the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure land. No injuries were reported.
After the fire in January, ministry staff renewed efforts to connect the campers with alternate housing and dismantle the encampment. The cleanup effort was completed by the end of February.
“The ministry worked closely with Saanich police, Saanich fire and BC Housing to ensure the site was safe and people who were living there had a safe place to go,” a MoTI spokesperson said in a written statement. As of March 2, all the former residents of the encampment had been connected with suitable housing alternatives with the help of the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.
The Saanich Police Department had been connecting with the campers at the site for several years, explained Const. Markus Anastasiades, public information officer. After the fire, community engagement officers reached out to the residents to explain the safety concerns and help them locate alternate housing.
While the most recent fire occurred in the winter, a summertime blaze could have been far more dangerous, he said. Once the campers had all moved elsewhere, the remains of the encampment were removed to “make the area safe again.”
Anyone who is experiencing homelessness and would like help finding a place to stay indoors can reach out to BC Housing by calling 1-877-257-7756 or going to 941 Pandora Ave.