The gates remain closed at Goldstream Park provincial campground and questions abound about why only some essential health care providers are allowed in to visit the 32 campers who have taken refuge there since being evicted from the Regina Park tent city.
“It’s intense, we have no idea how long we’re here for,” said group organizer Chrissy Brett. “We went from being given a 24-hour notice to 14 days to indefinitely. We keep asking what that means, before or after 14 days, but nobody will answer.”
Goldstream Park is normally open to camping year round but since last week has been closed to all members of the public except for the 32 members of the homeless camp. The group arrived from Saanich on Tuesday, after a four-night stay across from Uptown shopping centre on the land between Carey Road, Ravine Way and Highway 17.
Lindsay Byers, media relations for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said that the park was closed to new campers to ensure safety and that B.C. Parks is ensuring outreach service workers have access to the camp.
“This has included staff from Pacifica Housing, BC Housing and the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction outreach, as well as other non-profit groups providing supports to the campers,” she wrote. “Pacifica Housing has brought in food and other supplies as needed.
Byers also said that everyone inside Goldstream has undergone a vulnerability assessments to identify short and longer-term housing options.
Lawyer John Heaney represented the tent city group against Saanich in court and continues to represent them out of Goldstream Park.
Heaney was permitted in on Sunday and brought food. He said he’s trying to work with the province and persuade them that there isn’t any harm in allowing people to come in to provide support.
“It’s a bit frustrating, no one will identify the person making the decisions of who can go in,” Heaney said. “As a lawyer, my request to speak to someone making these decisions about who is on the list seems like a reasonable question to ask.”
Among those who’ve been turned away were members of the local Pauquachin Nation (one of four W̱SÁNEĆ Nations on the Peninsula) who had brought food, and posted their rebuff in a Facebook video. Brett’s own children visited and weren’t allowed in.
Pastor John Overholt of Encounter Church in Victoria had visited the previous tent city as an outreach pastor since it started at Regina Park, he said.
On Sunday he posted about his attempt to offer spiritual service, only to be turned away.
“I went to [Goldstream Park] today, showed my ministerial credentials but was refused entrance,” Overholt wrote. “I was told that only a few essential services were being permitted to enter. I presume that spiritual support is not one of them. I will return on Tuesday to find out if I will be approved to be put on the list.”
On Sunday, Langford Mayor Stew Young met with residents from the neighbourhood at Ma Miller’s Pub.
Young asked attendees to avoid generalizations about the homeless residents. “Not everybody in the camp is doing drugs,” he said. “Not everybody is criminal.”
This came just a few days after Young criticized the criminal element of the homeless campers at Goldstream.
Brett said she met with two Langford representatives and through them, she invited Young to the camp.
“Just claiming that there’s such a criminal element here and demeaning everyone, telling people to stay away is dangerous [and promotes discrimination],” Brett said. “To classify everyone in one group just because they’re homeless when there are people who are not drug addicted here, people who don’t use needles here, like me, that is exactly like I would expect from Stew Young, Doug Ford or Donald Trump.”
Brett said she has a standing invitation to Young, Premier John Horgan, and Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, to visit the site.