Tent camp organizer Ivan Drury demands housing from NDP leader John Horgan during his campaign stop in Maple Ridge, May 2017. He faced protests at his latest campaign appearance there over his government’s imposition of transitional housing. (Maple Ridge News)

Tent camp organizer Ivan Drury demands housing from NDP leader John Horgan during his campaign stop in Maple Ridge, May 2017. He faced protests at his latest campaign appearance there over his government’s imposition of transitional housing. (Maple Ridge News)

B.C. VOTES 2020: Few solutions offered for ‘out of control’ camping

B.C. Liberals, NDP spend millions as problem keeps growing

B.C. party leaders are confronted with demands to deal with growing urban camping and associated crime as they campaign for the Oct. 24 provincial election, but after years and hundreds of millions spent to provide housing, they admit the problem is growing faster than the solutions.

Their daily media appearances are dominated by questions about Vancouver’s camps, which former social development minister Shane Simpson has acknowledged are among those that are partly genuine homeless people and partly protest organizers, staging one camp after another.

Simpson estimated in debate on his ministry budget this summer that there were 40 urban tent camps around B.C., with 1,000 or more people living in them. “Those numbers move,” he told the legislature. “What we’re not certain about, of course, is the numbers of people who are in significant need of housing and people who are there for activist purposes as well.”

NDP leader John Horgan has repeatedly said the problem has been made worse by COVID-19, despite recent acquisitions of hotels and motels in Victoria and Vancouver to move people from tent camps, and modular housing in other B.C. communities. He asked for patience.

“We have made progress in real terms but it doesn’t appear that way, when shelter beds, which are often there for those who are struggling to find a place to live permanently, are no longer available, which pushes more people out into the streets and into encampments,” Horgan said at a campaign stop in Coquitlam Sept. 29.

“Despite our best efforts it seems to the public that this is getting out of control,” Horgan said, adding he is “again appealing to federal partners in Ottawa to take a hard look at how they can get back into the business of housing, not just with press releases but with dollars and commitment to planning to help us get through this.”

RELATED: Campbell River park camp ‘went up in flames’

RELATED: Coleman tells councillors they must risk defeat

One of those places is Campbell River, where the local fire department responded Sept. 28 to multiple 9-1-1 calls of a fire in a park with campers in it. B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visited Sept. 29, where he blamed the NDP for a problem he and his government tackled with similar efforts for years before the 2017 election that brought Horgan to power.

“We’ve been saying for weeks now that when it comes to homelessness, you’ve got to treat the causes and prevent the harm,” Wilkinson said. “People are homeless for different reasons. When I go for my bike ride in the morning, there’s a park with two or three vehicles, and people are sleeping in them because they don’t have enough money. Those people need rental supports to get on with their lives.”

Rent supports were part of the approach of long-time B.C. Liberal housing minister Rich Coleman, who started by buying and renovating old hotels in Vancouver’s downtown east side, and then moved on to purchasing motels and disused senior homes in Victoria and other communities. Coleman has urged municipal leaders to stand up to community protests against adding supportive housing for mentally ill and drug-addicted people.

Horgan noted that his government’s use of modular housing and more hotels and motels has eliminated tent camps on Surrey’s Whalley strip, Victoria’s Pandora Street, in Nanaimo and at Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver. A court order this summer closed the Oppenheimer camp, which moved to other city locations with the help of organizer Chrissy Brett, who previously gathered street people into a series of camps in Victoria and Nanaimo.

Horgan took aim at Wilkinson’s campaign pledge to eliminate B.C.’s provincial sales tax for a year to leave more money in people’s pockets during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Eliminating the PST will not help one homeless person or one community that feels beset upon by the increase in encampments,” Horgan said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politicsBC Votes 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply as overdose emergency turns 5

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

An employee at Sidney’s Thrifty Foods tested positive for COVID-19, the parent company Sobeys posted on its website Wednesday. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
COVID-19 case reported at Sidney grocery store

Thrifty Foods employee last worked at the store April 3

The Latoria South section of the Royal Bay development in Colwood could include a new long-term care facility. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood’s Royal Bay could be home to new long-term care facilities

Capital Regional Hospital District board approves $8M land purchase for purpose

(Black Press Media file photo)
Youth gets combative with police at Victoria hospital

VicPD officer injured, youth kept in care under Mental Health Act

Acclaimed author Eden Robinson hosts a virtual conversation and reading from her latest book, Return of the Trickster, on Friday, April 23, in conjunction with the Vancouver Island Regional Library. (Photo courtesy of VIRL)
Island author brings Trickster in online library event

Fans of the work of Eden Robinson will get the opportunity to… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tsunami?

Tsunamis have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people between 1998… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

One of the grand prizes for this year's Hometown Heroes Lottery includes a seaside home at SookePoint, $1.5 million, and an Audi Quattro. (Photo courtesy of Hometown Heroes)
Hometown Heroes Lottery features seaside home in Sooke

A stunning seaside home in Sooke could be yours for the price… Continue reading

City workers from Duncan were busy recently putting up street signs in both Hul’q’umi’num’ and English. (Submitted photo)
Hul’q’umi’num street signs installed in downtown Duncan

Partnership with Cowichan Tribes sees English street names twinned with Indigenous language

Homicide investigators who asked not to be identified put up signs Wednesday, April 14, along the Nanaimo Parkway in the area where a body was found March 31. RCMP are asking for witnesses or dash cam footage as the suspicious death has now been ruled a homicide. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Suspicious death along the highway in Nanaimo now being investigated as a homicide

RCMP identify victim as Randell Charles Thomas, repeat call for any information related to the case

Most Read