The executive director of a Saanich-area cold weather shelter says he is expecting to fill 25 spaces that will open up on Oct. 1, but all of those spaces won’t necessarily be filled with homeless campers from Camp Namegans currently living at Goldstream Park.
Ron Rice, executive director of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre (VNFC), said Monday morning he is not sure how many people from the homeless camp will end up at the Saanich facility.
Some 2,000 homeless people currently live in Greater Victoria and the West Shore camp represents a small fraction of it, he said. While it has drawn a lot of attention in symbolizing the larger issue, shelters need to take a look at the bigger picture instead of focusing on only a small section of the greater homeless population.
Rice plans to meet with officials from other shelters around the region to discuss the best way forward, as the camp in Goldstream Park must move again this week after the province gave a deadline of Oct. 1.
Some shelters will able to accommodate couples, others will take in people with pets and there are still some others that are able to fulfill more different needs, Rice added.
He made these comments after leadership of the homeless camp in Goldstream Park publicly questioned the provincial government’s commitment to finding a longterm solution, as to why 25 people currently staying together in a provincial campground would not be allowed to stay together in a shelter.
Chrissy Brett, one of the camp leaders,wondered Sunday why the VNFC has expressed concerns about housing those 25 people from Goldstream Park.
Camp Namegans, as the tent city describes itself, posted to its Facebook page Sunday morning that the provincial government had offered in writing to shelter or house 25 out of 34 people staying at the camp on Thursday.
This was to be part of an agreement with the provincial government that gave campers until Monday to vacate the park.
According to the post, the VNFC later expressed concern with housing that many people from the camp in one place.
“Right now, we are being offered 19 shelter mats,” the posting reads. “The NDP is lying when it says that it is housing campers.”
Brett wondered why the homeless shelter has chosen to break up what she called the “Namegans family.”
“How can a homeless shelter say I’m too scared of those 25 homeless people, so I’ll take 10 and then scatter the rest to even…even less healthy shelters?” she said.
She said this development is detrimental for individuals, who need proper indoor housing, “not a rubber mat on a gym floor, where couples can’t sleep besides each other, and pets [are] not allowed.”
Rice said Brett’s comments are inaccurate and the VNFC is deciding today how many people they will accept.