The nomadic tent city housing protest has returned to Hampton Park in the Tillicum neighbourhood for the first time since last year.
Early Wednesday afternoon Chrissy Brett, the Namegans Nations group spokesperson, was stationed along Tillicum Road where she leaned over a gas grill to keep warm. In her first few hours at the site she was approached by several concerned neighbours regarding the appropriateness of Hampton for overnight sheltering.
Brad Hlasny, president of Gorge Soccer club that is based at Hampton, said parents are concerned for the safety of their children.
“[The group] continues to use community youth parks and playgrounds for political gain,” he said. “There are lots of parks around where no youth programs would be affected.”
(Inset photo: A map of the 102 Saanich Parks made available for overnight sheltering which includes Cedar Hill Park. Saanich.ca)
Hampton Park’s “camp-ability,” or lack thereof, is one of the reasons the Namegans group returned there. It was one of the stops of the roaming tent city in the winter of 2017-18. The group of 14 people was forced out of Cedar Hill Park on Wednesday after the park, which wraps around a gold course, was deemed inappropriate by Saanich for overnight shelter. The decision was surprising as Cedar Hill Park was originally listed as one of the 102 Saanich parks available for overnight sheltering between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m.
“I don’t think the knee-jerk reaction by Saanich [to kick homeless from Regina Park] is the answer, and I don’t think that Hampton Park is the answer,” Brett said. “We are reduced in numbers right now, I don’t think this is as invasive as dropping [100 occupants from] Regina Park into this space.
“This is what we were told. Here are the parks you can tent at in Saanich.”
Saanich has a proud tradition of natural space, boasting 172 parks. In total parks cover 8.2 square kilometres, which represents eight per cent of Saanich’s total area, the equivalent of 100 Canadian Football League fields (this is all according to Saanich.ca).
Brett agreed the environmental sensitivity of parks such as Cuthbert Holmes and Mount Douglas makes them inappropriate for overnight sheltering, and the group has no plans to go there, nor many other parks.
(Inset photo: Taylor Park at Sims and Regina near Regina Park.)
“Look at Taylor Park [at Sims and Regina, near Regina Park], it’s mostly a playground with no room for tents, so why is overnight permitted there? It’s ‘uncamp-able,’” Brett said.
“Can we reduce it to 20 or 30 parks across Saanich that are ‘camp-able’ parks? Maybe they rotate, but there needs to be bathrooms. I think the District of Saanich, Saanich Parks and Saanich Police need to sit down with our lawyer and without going back to the courts, agree on which parks are appropriate.”