A flurry of activity has centered on Goldstream Park today. The Camp Namegans group, who had been told on Wednseday that they must vacate the area before 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, have been told they can stay on the grounds for two weeks.
Two weeks is the maximum length of stay in any provincial park, and is the amount of time that the homeless campers had originally planned on staying there.
“While the park is not an appropriate place for the establishment of a tent city, BC Parks is not asking the homeless campers to leave at this time,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, in a statement.
Despite being allowed to stay, Robinson stressed that “we urge those at Goldstream to work with staff to identify better housing solutions.”
While those of Camp Namegans are allowed to stay, all other campers were forced to leave, and the gates are closed to newcomers.
“Following concerns expressed by the RCMP, the campground was closed to ensure public safety,” Said Robinson. “People with reservations will be refunded.”
Heated confrontations also erupted on Thursday, as angry Langford residents spoke with the approximately 30 homeless campers.
RCMP remained in the area to step in and calm the situation.
“RCMP continues to work with park staff to ensure the safety of homeless campers, the site, and surrounding communities,” said Robinson.
“Our goal is to get people into shelters and longer-term housing. In the short term, we are opening a shelter at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, with space for 25 people, starting on Oct. 1. We are also continuing to offer rent supplements to help people find housing in the private market.”
There is no statement on when the park will be reopened for visitors.
After just one day at Goldstream Park, the residents of Camp Namegans have been informed that they must leave by 11:00 a.m. today, Thursday, September 20.
A collection of RCMP, park rangers, and park operators arrived at the Goldstream campgrounds around 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday night.
RCMP then told the residents of the homeless encampment, and all other visitors at the park, that the area would be closed starting at 11:00 a.m. today.
The closing of the campgrounds came as a surprise to Chrissy Brett, Camp Namegans organizer, and other park users that were unaffiliated with the homeless group.
Goldstream Park is now closed as RCMP prepare to evict homeless campers. RVs are slowly pulling out of the campground pic.twitter.com/DDYD3zpgmG
— Liz McArthur (@lizziepetra) September 20, 2018
A last minute rally
In response to the park being closed, the residents of Camp Namegans are holding an “emergency rally” at Goldstream Park at 10:30 a.m. today.
“…the Province is evicting homeless people once again, this time, by shutting down an entire Provincial campground in order to ensure that homeless people continue to flee from site to site without reprieve,” posted the Camp Namegans Facebook page, in their upcoming rally event description.
The grounds, which usually welcomes campers year-round, has not announced when it will reopen.