The city brought in heavy equipment Monday to clear tents and accumulated debris from the site that was Discontent City. Most, but not all, residents have been provided supportive housing. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Nanaimo’s Discontent City being bulldozed

City crews on scene cleaning up, no access to the site allowed

Backhoes, city workers and police moved in Monday morning to disassemble Discontent City.

The downtown Nanaimo homeless camp has seen most of its residents moved to temporary supportive housing on Terminal Avenue and Labieux Road as the former tent city site was sealed off to all but city workers and police. Anyone else entering could be arrested for trespassing and police did arrest one person who entered the property.

RCMP Insp. Lisa Fletcher, one of the police officers overseeing the operation, said she considered just a single arrest a success by the city working with the community.

While the majority of residents have found city-sanctioned shelter, others who were not awarded space in supportive housing pitched tents, at least temporarily, on the outer perimeter of 1 Port Drive while they contemplated where they could go.

However, time to move on is growing short for those camped outside the former tent city site. Dave Laberge, city manager of community safety, said encampments outside the fence at 1 Port Drive would also be cleared by the city, but did not say how soon.

Damian Gallant, 24, and Elissa Fawdry, 17, were among those not awarded temporary housing. Their possessions were stacked in Rubbermaid containers next to the fence as they contemplated their next move. Fawdry said it’s likely they were not provided housing because at 17 she’s a minor. The couple had been living at Discontent City for about three and a half months. Fawdry said they lost their last rental unity on Haliburton Street when their landlord sold her property.

“We have all our stuff here and we don’t know where to go,” Gallant said. “We just couldn’t find any affordable housing.”

Dominic Flanagan, executive director of B.C. Housing, said on the first day of move-ins at the Labieux site, Nov. 30, that everybody who was at Discontent City experiencing homelessness would be offered housing or a shelter space.

“We recognize that more work needs to be done,” he said. “And as the homeless count showed, the number of people who are experiencing homelessness here in Nanaimo well exceeds 300. So we need to do more. [Temporary supportive housing] is an important, significant first step, but the work continues.”

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said at a press conference Monday that if people insisted on staying at the Discontent City site they could be arrested.

“Obviously if people insist on staying at that site, there is a court order and I expect the RCMP to enforce the court order and hopefully it won’t come to that,” he said.

“The other reality is there are people sleeping in our parks around this community, sleeping in wooded areas, literally camping through the winter. The good news, as everyone knows, further shelter beds at St. Peters Catholic Church, that will be helpful … Shelter beds are a help, but they are not a house. They are not a home.”

Kevin Gartner is one of the residents who has been provided housing and is happy with the way the city has handled Discontent City.

“This sets some sort of precedence for the homeless, I think, so we should see some good things right across Canada, right?” Gartner said. “I was here for about three or four months and they fed us and did everything they could.”

According to B.C. Housing, 155 people experiencing homelessness have been able to move into temporary supportive housing at Labieux and at Terminal Avenue.

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