Duncan neighbourhood swept clean of homeless build-up

Authorities spend two days clearing Lewis Steet area of garbage and homeless people

Emma Nunn said she has nowhere to go.

Nunn, who has lived in Duncan her whole life, said she has had no luck finding affordable housing in the Cowichan Valley so she spends much of her time in the Lewis Street area, along with between 20 to 30 other people who have no homes, or live in inadequate housing.

She spent Tuesday morning sorting through her belongings preparing to leave as the RCMP and bylaw officers from the Municipality of North Cowichan conducted a sweep of the area to clean it up and urge the homeless and others who gravitate there to move on.

“I’ve been kicked out of everywhere else I’ve tried to stay, but I’ll probably come back when the police and bylaw officers go away,” Nunn said. “At least here there’s some shelter [Warmland House] nearby.”

RELATED STORY: DUNCAN’S LEWIS STREET HOMELESS ISSUES RAISING IRE OF RESIDENTS

Bylaw officers and work crews, supported by police from the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, spent Monday and Tuesday on Lewis Street clearing the area of discarded clothes, shopping carts, tents and other gear, with much of it tossed into a garbage bin that was brought on site for the task.

On Tuesday morning, something flammable caught fire in the garbage bin that sent acrid smoke along the street, covering people picking though their garbage bags containing their few possessions, before the fire was put out with extinguishers.

Lewis Street has had similar problems in the past, and authorities have moved in to clear the area at least three times since 2017 after receiving numerous complaints from the residents of the area.

RCMP Cpl. Kiel Pharis said the police were checking through abandoned clothing and other belongings on the street for stolen property, and were collecting shopping carts to be returned to their owners.

“We’re telling the people that they can’t establish permanent camps here, and then give them a warning and encourage them to move on,” he said. “This is an ongoing social issue.”

Martin Drakeley, North Cowichan’s manager of fire and bylaw services, said bylaw officers were responding to many complaints from the neighbourhood over the last week.

“It’s really not their fault,” he said, referring to the people who were busy going through their belongings. “There are too many people living on the streets these days and it’s getting cold out now. They are being forced to just move on from one place to another.”

RELATED STORY: COWICHAN VALLEY SHELTERS FILLING UP AS WINTER COLD TAKES HOLD

Drakeley said North Cowichan and the police have no authority or ability to do anything for the people, other than move them along when they become a problem to neighbours.

He said many congregate in the Lewis Street area because it’s close to the Warmland shelter, but that facility is often too full to accommodate all of them, or they have ongoing drug and other issues that preclude them from using its services.

RELATED STORY: MUNICIPALITY STEPS IN TO AGAIN CLEAN UP ABANDONED LEWIS STREET PROPERTY

“If they had somewhere to go, that would be great,” Drakeley said.

“But it’s a political issue and I know North Cowichan’s mayor and council are working hard with other local and senior governments to find places for them that will suit everyone.”

The City of Duncan, Municipality of North Cowichan and the Cowichan Valley Regional District have been working with BC Housing to develop a plan for a low-barrier shelter in the area.

A recent statement from North Cowichan acknowledged that discussions with BC Housing about low-barrier housing in the area have been going on for some time, but “there is no progress to report at this time”.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Just Posted

One month later, Cowichan fisherman still missing

Colin Court has been missing since Nov. 15 after disappearing while fishing near Youbou’s Shaw Creek

More rowers come forward with complaints about coach, criticism of UVic

Barney Williams is accused of verbal abuse and harassment

No chronic wasting disease found in deer carcass brought to Nanaimo

Conservation officers had asked for public assistance to locate hunters last month

Mount Washington receives more than 30cm of snow

Last week, the resort announced they were pushing back opening day due to lack of snow.

Gabriola Island plane crash victim identified; witnesses describe ‘explosion’

He was a flight instructor, charter pilot and owned an airstrip before leaving Alberta

‘Not a decision I came to lightly:’ Scheer to resign as Conservative leader

Decision comes after weeks of Conservative infighting following the October election

‘British Columbians are paying too much’: Eby directs ICBC to delay rate application

Attorney General David Eby calls for delay in order to see how two reforms play out

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Couple who bought $120k banana duct-taped to wall say artwork will be ‘iconic’

Pair compared it to Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans,’ which was initially ‘met with mockery’

Woman injured during West Shore RCMP arrest prompts police watchdog investigation

IIO investigating to determine if police action or inaction linked to woman’s injuries

Two pedestrians struck by vehicles in Port Alberni

Fire chief reminds motorists, pedestrians to be cautious

Race to replace Andrew Scheer could be a crowded one

Many familiar faces, such as Maxime Bernier, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Kevin O’Leary, have said no

Sooke student hit by vehicle in high school crosswalk

Injuries appear to be non-life threatening, but student was taken to hospital by ambulance

Most Read