The nomadic tent city, a peaceful protest which has been moving around the region for months, has landed in Colwood for the immediate future.
Led by Chrissy Brett, roughly 12 people have set up camp on the grass between Island Highway and the park and ride near West Shore Parks and Recreation.
“Colwood has been absolutely amazing … I think this is hopefully, maybe, Colwood setting the bar for other municipalities,” said Brett while setting up camp.
This is what she believed to be the group’s 14th week camping out in the Capital Region after spending roughly five weeks in the Cowichan Valley last spring. The majority of that time has been spent in Greater Victoria’s core.
While Brett noted the Victoria Police Department and the City were welcoming, she did receive a ticket for every day she camped in the municipality. She added, Saanich on the other hand, opted not to fine her. But her greatest opposition has come from Oak Bay.
“We had pushed through the tweed curtain and I expected some push back,” she explained. After spending several weeks there, she added it was time to move on. “[But] some have been open to learning new ways to deal with the homeless and mental health issues.”
Before moving to Colwood, the group spent roughly two weeks in View Royal, getting off to a rocky start on the West Shore.
“View Royal was a bit of a bump in the road … Things were done in a more old school policing kind of way,” she said, noting officers arrested two campers the first night in View Royal and her bus was impounded.
But after some communication with the Town of View Royal and local police, she noted there was a shift in their interaction, which changed for the better. She added the Town even thanked her for the cultural components she brought to meetings with them and helped start a conversation with the City of Colwood.
While she noted there is more local governments can be doing to support homeless in the region, she did admit homelessness is more of an issue that the provincial and federal governments need to tackle by providing all residents with access to “basic human rights.” She hopes her protest will inspire some change. “This has created an opportunity for the province to step up and be more helpful and supportive … There’s people that are dying on our streets.”
After spending roughly 10 to 14 days in Colwood, Brett said the group will move on to their next location. While that hasn’t been finalized yet, she expects it will be either Langford or Central Saanich.
But when all is said and done, Brett is hopeful room will be found for all of the campers in programs around the region such as the transitional housing project that was recently approved for the former Tally Ho Motel.
She’s also asked the province to provide her with a piece of land in an industrial area near downtown Victoria where she could set up a pilot project that would allow for a homeless camp that could potentially feature living space in modified shipping containers.