A group of former tent city occupants say they faced considerable discrimination on Friday during a temporary stay at Rudd Park in Saanich.
Saanich Police enforced last week’s injunction and evicted everyone from Camp Namegans tent city at Regina Park as of Thursday night. As of Friday afternoon those there hadn’t made any decisions as to where they might stay Friday night.
Drivers who passed by honked and yelled, construction workers from a nearby site spent smoke breaks gawking and yelling at them. It was all too demeaning for Don and Deedee, who already suffer from mental health issues and say life on the streets is a grind on their well-being.
“We’re compliant, we left Regina because we don’t want to be arrested, we don’t want any trouble,” Deedee said.
While Saanich Police released an update on crime numbers on Friday – citing a spike in reports for that neighbourhood specifically – Deedee said she’s not a criminal and neither are 90-something per cent of the residents at tent city.
“Most of us don’t want to be here, we don’t have friends who have places to give us,” Deedee said. “We have a friend who works and he’s couch surfing until he can find a place.”
Deedee suffers from PTSD, depression, colitis and diabetes and Don lives with bi-polar syndrome. Neither can work and both receive disability assistance.
“It wears on me badly,” Don said. “I take medication at night to help keep my mind slowed down, to keep me on the even keel. We’re trying to get our lives sorted out, get our feet on the ground, get settled.”
The group remains united in their quest for housing and support services said Blair, who lived at Regina Park this summer, now in his second year of experiencing homelessness.
Thursday night Blair and his partner Lynne went made the trek downtown to a shelter but Lynne had a hygiene accident and they were thrown out around 11 p.m., Blair said.
“So we came back here.”
Saanich Police, which fenced off Regina Park and clamped down on anyone entering or exiting, permitted tent city occupants to return between 10 and 2 p.m. on Friday to retrieve any belongings they had left behind.
Among those who are concerned about their presence at Rudd Park is the Gorge Soccer Club. President Brad Hlasny said the club uses the field at Rudd Park weekly for its youth soccer programs.
It’s not the first time people have camped at Rudd or on a Gorge-run field, Hlasny said.
“It’s a hard situation, certainly this group of people need help,” Hlasny said. “We’ve had parents say they won’t be bringing their kids to soccer if the camp is there.”
Overall, the feelings that Don and Deedee, and Blair and Lynne have felt, is disheartening, they said.
“The response we’ve gotten from society since [joining] tent city is horrible,” Don said. “Society is treating us very badly. It’s horrible and stressful. People yell ‘get a job,’ ‘go home.’
“Who are you to talk to me that way? What if it was you on this side of the fence and me on that side, you think I’m going to be a dick about it? No. I’m going to say ‘Hey, so sorry you’re down on your luck.’ I’d be one of those people to honk their horn in support, not saying, ‘get out of here.’”