Tent camp next to Victoria courthouse persists even as shelter and housing spaces are added. Housing Minister Rich Coleman says some campers are there as a protest and they want a confrontation.

BC VIEWS: Welcome to B.C., freeloaders

Word is out across the country, if you want handouts and housing, no questions asked, the West Coast is best

As the B.C. government spends millions on an international brand campaign with the recycled slogan “Super, Natural B.C.,” another brand identity has spread across Canada.

This one’s unintentional. It hit a new peak last week with the arrival of two young men from Saskatchewan, who were given one-way tickets to Vancouver and Victoria by typically burdened social services ministry staff in North Battleford.

Sorting through the blizzard of soothing sound bites and sympathetic TV clips, a clearer picture emerges.

In his initial interview with the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, Charles Neil-Curly, at 23 the elder of the two, said he decided to head west when shelter staff told him his time had run out and he asked for bus tickets to B.C.

“When they asked if I had a place to go, I just said, ‘yeah’,” Neil-Curly said. “I was going to the next homeless shelter anyway.”

Transients and panhandlers aren’t the only ones who say whatever they figure will get them through another day. Politicians do it too.

Admitting she knew little about the arrivals, Premier Christy Clark suggested that both were mentally ill and deserve every support the province can give them.

B.C. housing czar Rich Coleman has also demonstrated factual flexibility as he presides over the creation of his latest single-room-occupancy drug ghetto in a residential neighbourhood in Victoria.

After quietly proposing a closed-down nursing home called Mount Edwards Court as a temporary solution to the filthy “tent city” that sprang up on provincial property last fall, Coleman abruptly announced from his Langley office Feb. 5 that the building had been bought and partly renovated for $4 million. It would house 38 people for up to a year.

I asked him if the purchase meant the conversion of Mount Edwards into permanent “low-barrier” housing for 100 people was a “done deal,” as area residents believe. “They’re wrong,” Coleman indignantly replied, and there would be community consultation over the next year.

In subsequent comments to reporters, he said the province doesn’t really need city zoning, but will apply for it anyway. (That won’t be a problem with Victoria’s far-left city council, which is keen to add a supervised injection site too.)

On Feb. 24, Coleman was asked if he is concerned that the 88 housing units at two locations would fill up and other transients would arrive to take their place. By that time the tent squat appeared to have about 100 people in residence, with the usual overdoses, violence and prostitution.

Coleman assured us it hasn’t happened in Abbotsford or Maple Ridge, where tent camps have finally been cleaned up after shelters and housing were provided.

The next day, he was asked if transitional accommodations would be sufficient to end the camp.

“They’re not actually all that transitional,” Coleman replied. “We’ll take Mount Edwards through a zoning process. We’ve got about 100 beds there. We’ve bought the building so it’s hardly transitional. We’ve permanently done that.”

Fast forward to March 11. The 38 Mount Edwards spaces are full, another 40 rooms and camping spaces at a former youth custody centre are almost full, and the province applies for a court order to clear the Victoria camp.

A representative of the advocacy group Together Against Poverty Society goes on local radio to pledge legal support for the campers. How many are there now? At least 100, he says.

Meanwhile in Maple Ridge, where the “homeless” problem is all fixed, Coleman has just extended temporary shelter funding and paid $5.5 million for a 61-room motel to fix it some more.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich police cruiser (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Saanich police investigating broken window at SD61 office

Police suspect the window was broken by a pellet, possibly from a slingshot

Emily Harris (centre) started the in-person Monarch Moms meet-up groups in July, when it was much easier to physical distance in outdoor spaces. Harris started the group as a source of connection for women navigating the ups and downs of having a baby during a pandemic. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Victoria new mom group navigates challenges of motherhood in a pandemic

Monarch Moms meet once a week for physically-distanced connection

The Takaya inspired sculpture currently in Kent Laforme’s outdoor studio. The 25,000-pound piece of Vancouver Island marble could be installed on Cattle Point. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Stone Takaya sculpture could soon ‘howl’ at Cattle Point

Oak Bay inviting public suggestions for 25,000-pound marble sculpture

Joanne Smith has been visiting Goldstream Provincial Park since she moved to Langford two years ago. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Visitors flock to Goldstream Provincial Park for 2020 salmon run

‘I wanted to come here before I move back to Australia,’ says visitor

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. (Facebook photo)
Search efforts to resume for missing Manning Park hiker; Trudeau speaks on case

PM says he’ll do what he can to ‘nudge’ efforts to find Jordan Naterer, yet has little leverage locally

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
B.C. records first COVID-19 outbreak at school, six weeks after students return to class

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is seen as she leaves media event during a campaign stop in West Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green leader hopes voters see value in minority government

The Greens received nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote in 2017 yet received just three seats

Local candidates Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission, and Preet Rai, Abbotsford-West, look on as NDP Leader John Horgan main streets in Abbotsford, B.C., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. NDP takes snap election risk during pandemic in quest for majority government

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the election was unnecessary and irresponsible during the pandemic

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, B.C., on October 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. Liberal Leader maintains confidence as campaign tests party identity

Liberal campaign has been disrupted by controversy

Most Read