Two Saanich public parks used by residents of a roaming homeless camp last year remain on the list of public parks that permit temporary overnight sheltering, even as Saanich plans to shorten that list.
Both Regina Park – the main site of last year’s homeless encampment that lasted for several months – as well as nearby Rudd Park – remain on the list of 81 public parks where temporary overnight sheltering remains permissible.
Pending council approval Monday, 25 public parks will be off limits to individuals seeking temporary overnight shelter.
The pending revisions respond to concerns from the public after Saanich had amended its parks management and control bylaw to include a definition of temporary overnight sheltering while limiting temporary overnight sheltering to then 102 out of 172 public parks. See here for a list of parks said to be removed from initial list.
“At the time of that amendment, [council] and staff heard from various community members regarding their desire to consider refinements to the list of parks allowable for temporary overnight sheltering,” said Sharon Hvozdanski, Saanich’s director of planning in a memo prepared by Eva Riccius, senior parks manager.
The memo says staff considered a number of criteria in their analysis including whether parks appeared landlocked, setbacks from park structures such as playgrounds and sports fields, and environmental concerns.
“Staff were judicious in analyzing the parks that are allowable for temporary overnight sheltering and worked carefully to asses each park to consider both recent Supreme Court of BC direction based on case law and the input heard from community members,” it reads.
This argument will likely not satisfy some residents, who live near Regina Park, as well as Rudd Park.
Regina Park was the site of a homeless camp in 2018 that lasted for months from early spring until early fall, housing more than 100 people at its peak before authorities dissolved it following a favourable court ruling.
Several residents living around Regina Park complained to various degrees about the camp during the course of its existence, and a handful of residents living in Rudd Park openly lobbied for changes after some homeless individuals had temporarily moved to Rudd Park following their expulsion from Regina Park.
Specifically, they called for a ban on temporary overnight sheltering in parks with playgrounds or sports fields.
“During that short stay [of homeless individuals in Rudd Park], many of parents in that area didn’t allow their kids to play in that park for several days, including myself, the reason being safety,” said Lyndsay Edgar, a resident of Whittier Avenue, last year.
Pending final approval by council Monday, those efforts will appear to have been in vain.
Regardless of the outcome though, homeless individuals will not be able to set up shelter during the day in any of Saanich’s public parks.