The City of Nanaimo announced that it will involve the courts in an effort to evict campers from the Discontent City homeless camp.
People experiencing homelessness, along with their advocates, set up the campsite last month on 1 Port Drive land at Esplanade and Front Street.
Coun. Ian Thorpe, acting mayor, said the city wants to take a “prudent and balanced approach” and read a statement from city lawyer Troy DeSouza at Monday’s council meeting.
“The public will best be served by bringing this matter before a justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia to resolve the competing concerns,” DeSouza wrote.
Thorpe said the city recognizes “we have an issue with homelessness” and recognizes there is a need for more social housing
“The City of Nanaimo does not support the continuation of the tent city at 1 Port Place,” said Thorpe, reading a statement agreed upon by city council. “We are attempting to address the concerns of downtown residents and business owners. The city is currently seeking to secure alternative shelter options.”
The City of Nanaimo is asking any citizens who have been negatively impacted by Discontent City to consider making a sworn statement; for information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Kevin Donaghy, an organizer of Discontent City, said the Thorpe’s comments show that the city is continuing to dehumanize the individuals at Discontent City.
“The City of Nanaimo isn’t creating a people place, Discontent City is creating a people place,” he said. “We’re saying that the [acting] mayor is effectively dehumanizing the people in this camp. The mayor doesn’t see the people living here as people and he doesn’t see homeless people as persons in our community.”
Organizers claim occupants at the camp have received a significant number of jaywalking tickets from the Nanaimo RCMP around Discontent City and that the city is using bylaws to criminalize homelessness. The camp has also taken more homeless people out of downtown Nanaimo streets and parks and given them somewhere stay according to the organizers and occupants, who also say that there has always been high incidents of theft from downtown businesses prior to the establishment of the camp.
“The influx [of residents] has grown so quickly, so fast,” said Darcy Kory, a homeless occupant of Discontent City.
Brandon Wheaton, a resident at Discontent City, said local politicians and others in the community assume the camp is merely a place for drug addicts to come hangout and socialize. He said as a First Nations man who recently became homeless, the camp is safer than living on the city streets or at a park.
“The last six months have been absolute hell, but all in all, in the past 30 days, being here in tent city, I’ve been able to feel a little bit safer,” he said.
Noah Ross, lawyer representing the occupants at Discontent City, said the city hasn’t filed any court documents yet. He said, even if they do move ahead with legal action, the city hasn’t proven that they have a use for the site and that the harms associated with Discontent City outweigh the benefits.
“The benefits are that people have a place to stay … we don’t believe that they have really identified any real harms,” he said. “There has been an increase in jaywalking tickets, but there have been very few, if any, violent incidents, in the camp. We are meeting weekly with police and fire officials to respond to any concerns as they arise.”