Homeless encampment along the Pat Bay Highway near Saanich's fire hall. (Nina Boncajes / Facebook)

A group of homeless campers who have been setting up their tents in various locations on Vancouver Island since April have set up camp on Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure land near the Saanich Fire Department on Highway 17.

The homeless encampment moved to the new location on Saturday after vacating a private property in rural Saanich on Friday.

In a release, Saanich Police said they contacted the ministry as soon as the campers moved in, and plan on continuing a dialogue with the ministry to provide support if requested.

While Saanich has an overnight camping bylaw, the District of Saanich Parks and Management Bylaw, that allows for temporary overnight camping from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m. in 102 Saanich parks, the campers are on provincial land rather than municipal making the bylaw unenforceable.

Meanwhile, facilities at the Saanich Municipal Hall remain open for use between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m., as well as 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The services there include washrooms, showers, a hygiene station, and storage for this who may need temporary overnight sheltering.

In April, the homeless encampment was established at Regina Park in Saanich, and eventually grew to roughly 75 people before moving in September to Rudd Park, and then later Goldstream Provincial Park.

Most recently, the camp had been on a private property in the 5000 block of West Saanich Road before moving to its current location beside Highway 17.

There are reports the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will be asking the campers to leave the area right away citing the area along the Pat Bay Hwy is not safe.

Saanich Police said evidence has shown that over the course of the encampment, at various locations, the rate of criminal activity in the areas increased.

“The Saanich Police are committed to ensuring the safety of all those impacted by this camp and ask that any criminal or suspicious activity be reported to us by either calling our non-emergency line at 250-475-4321 or for an emergency, 9-1-1.”

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