Soiled underwear. Garbage. A table-top hockey game.
These are some of the items that residents living near Cuthbert Holmes Park have spotted inside the park, which they fear might once again become a refuge for campers, including some currently staying in Regina Park.
The items themselves have appeared around a make-shift shelter inside Cuthbert Holmes Park not far from a local shopping centre. The make-shift shelter appeared about a week ago, and Saanich Police have posted a note on its grafitti-covered outside in asking its occupant(s) to depart.
“Please dismantle your camp ASAP or it will be removed by Saanich Park/Police as mentioned above,” said Const. Richard Burdet in the note.
The note cites Saanich’s park management and control bylaw. Recent amendments passed in late April give authorities the right to seize any personal property left in any park including Cuthbert Holmes Park following concerns from area residents.
Dorothy Chambers, a local community activist, reiterated her support of the bylaw in praising the response of the municipality so far, but also urging it to step up.
Specifically, she expressed fears that the appearance of the make-shift shelter marks a return to the days before the amendments.
“On one hand, they [Saanich] have done a good job cleaning up [the area],” she said. “But on the other hand, there needs to be daily enforcement [of the bylaw].”
This said, arrangements to deal with the make-shift shelter are underway, she said.
Larger concerns loom though. As Saanich council prepares for a special council Thursday meeting to discuss the fate of the camp that remains near Uptown despite receiving an eviction notice earlier this month, area residents fear that some of the campers from the Uptown location might find their way into Cuthbert Holmes Park, where some of them have stayed before.
“That has been a concern that we as an association have discussed,” said Vera Wynn-Williams, vice-president of the Gorge-Tillicum Community Association. “I would hope Saanich has a strategy,” she said. “That [people moving from Regina Park to Cuthbert Holmes Park] would not be an unforeseen consequence,” she said.
Several dozen people including people who camped at Cuthbert Holmes have been living in Regina Park for several weeks now as part of a religious ceremony protesting homelessness and its leadership signalled the prospect of resistance to the eviction notice that Saanich issued in early June.