Discontent City residents will allow cars to come and go through the gates.
Occupants of the tent city at Nanaimo’s Esplanade and Front Street have decided that people experiencing homelessness who live in cars, vans or RVs should be allowed to park on the property too.
“We’re trying to bridge the gap between the visible and the invisible homeless,” said Mercedes Courtoreille, camp advocate.
She pointed to a homeless count in the city in April, which tallied 335 people on the streets or in shelter beds.
“That doesn’t even begin to account for the people who are couch surfing, living in their cars, fifth-wheels, vans or illegally crushed into small apartments,” she said.
Cori Mitchell was the first to drive her truck and fifth-wheel inside the Discontent City fences on Friday morning. She recently had possessions stolen from her RV and she said pad rental has become unaffordable.
“I have a home, just nowhere to put it,” she said.
Mitchell said tent city is somewhere safe to put her home and a place where people pull together and watch out for each other.
“Still there’s people sleeping boxes and alleys. They’re still out there and a lot of them we don’t even know about,” she said.
Dereck Paul and has wife have only recently found themselves homeless and living at Discontent City. Paul said his van, which wasn’t insured, was towed overnight, a day after someone had given him $200.
“Just when we think things are getting better – we got money donated to us yesterday towards our van, to get it insured and have it for work… I went back to Square 1, which just sucks,” he said.
He mentioned that more housing is needed – more affordable housing and more pet-friendly housing.
The municipality issued a statement earlier this week that said, “The City of Nanaimo does not support the continuation of the tent city at 1 Port Place,” and quoted legal counsel saying that the city intends to proceed to B.C. Supreme Court by the end of June.
“The attitude of the camp is the opposite of the city. Instead of trying to ignore the homeless problem, the campers are offering support for all that fit,” Courtoreille said. “The goal of the camp is not to hide homelessness or to get elected based on an anti-homeless platform; the goal of the camp is to actually combat the housing crisis by providing a survival space.”