Earlier this spring, Coun. Colin Plant predicted that cracking down on one homeless camp would merely lead to another one elsewhere.
Saanich residents are currently witnessing confirmation of this theory. Little more than 24 hours passed between the moment Saanich Police shut down the homeless camp at Regina Park and the emergence of the new camp at the corner of Ravine Way and Carey Road.
While the camps may differ in size and surrounding circumstances, the causes that led to both remain, and camp organizers would likely argue that this is exactly the point that they are trying to make by maintaining their presence in Saanich. Whether this agenda will resonate with authorities beyond the temporary relief measures announced Monday remains uncertain for now.
Available evidence suggests that authorities appear less tolerant towards this latest camp. Provincial authorities took only 36 hours to tell some 40 residents to get off their piece of highway lawn. Careful readers of a Saanich Police press release may note that police asked the ministry of transportation and infrastructure to see if the ministry would assist Saanich in enforcing the provisions of the Trespass Act, including a provincial number to call.
Such a ‘request’ for assistance does not exactly leave the impression that police are taking a wait-and-see approach with this camp and adds to the growing tapestry of tension between the police and the camp residents.
While campers overstate their concerns with Saanich Police – a genuine police state would have never tolerated Regina Park in the first place and cracked down with far tougher measures than bright lights and fences – their general point about growing hostility towards homelessness among certain quarters of the public and parts of officialdom deserves attention because it speaks to a larger fraying of social norms and cohesion.
It is therefore comforting to see local residents treat the new camp with a matter-of-fact attitude, if not sympathy. To be clear, neither the public nor authorities should get used to this phenomenon. The worst solution to the current camp would be to rush into a rash action after some five months of relative inactivity.