Businesses and residents living near the new homeless camp in Saanich, at the corner of Ravine Way and Carey Road appear indifferent, even sympathetic to their new neighbours, according to an informal survey by the Saanich News.
The new camp appeared last Friday after Saanich Police shut down Camp Namegans — the name of the large homeless camp that had taken over Regina Park early in the summer. A small group of campers also spend a brief time at Rudd Park in Saanich.
“I’m sorry that they had to go without adequate housing, and support,” said Helen Hughes, who lives on Regina Avenue. Derek Wong, who lives on Kamloops Avenue, said the new camp actually appears to be more organized than the camp at Regina Park, because they appear to have had a message against homelessness from the very moment they arrived.
“I was actually more concerned when it was down [in Regina Park],” he said.
Wong said he does not feel unsafe and enjoys living in his neighbour. This said, he also urges residents to develop a clear plan to deal with homelessness in the region.
“It’s going to be on-going,” he said. “Any big city will have issues like this.”
Nathan Wymore, the assistant manager of the Liquor Depot location in Saanich Plaza, agrees. While he would like see the camp out of the area, he also hopes that authorities will follow through on plans to provide housing. This approach would benefit everybody involved — businesses, residents living near the camp, as well as the camp residents themselves, he said.
“I just hope that the [District] starts following through, so that we don’t have to throw money at clean-up.”
Wymore said he had found out about the new camp from clients, but it’s still too early to tell what impact it will have. “Time will tell,” he said.
Others, meanwhile, went out of their way to show their support for the camp, as a neighbour dropped off blankets for the some 40 residents at NamegansNation, as leaders call the new encampment.
Ben, neighbor to #NamegansNation came by camp to drop off some blankets. Ben thanking campers for raising awareness about housing crisis. Having a convo about how the rent increase in 2019 is going to affect everyone. pic.twitter.com/qoGnTABAMa
— Ashley Molli (@aimollison) September 17, 2018
But the camp also faced criticism — from an unlikely source even.
Owen Robertson, who lives in Olympic Vista, a seniors housing unit run by the Cool Aid Society, acknowledged that the camp had to go somewhere.
“It’s okay for a while, but when it is in your own backyard, it’s a bit frustrating,” he said.
The Saanich News also reached out to the two large grocery stores in the area — Whole Foods Market located just south of Ravine Way directly opposite of the encampment and the Save-On-Foods location in the Saanich Plaza near the Saanich News.
“We appreciate you reaching out but we have no comment for the story at this time,” said Matthew Young, of Whole Foods Market, global public relations.
Save-On-Foods did not respond by deadline.
Overall, it is hard to predict what impact the camp will have. The camp is not only significantly smaller, but authorities have also signalled that they are not prepared to tolerate the new camp as long as the camp at Regina Park, which lasted for five months, according to police records.
Statistics from Saanich Police show officers responded to 650 calls for service in the area near Regina Park between May 1 and September 11, 2017. These calls for service nearly doubled to 1,095 during the same period in 2018 when the park was taken over by Camp Namegans.
Saanich Police did not respond to several calls seeking info about service calls in the area near the new camp over the weekend.