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Housing minister says sanctioned homeless camps 'not an option' he wants to pursue

·2 min read
People living at a homeless camp at 231-233 George Street in Prince George, B.C., have been told they must leave by June 25 or face arrest. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC - image credit)
People living at a homeless camp at 231-233 George Street in Prince George, B.C., have been told they must leave by June 25 or face arrest. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC - image credit)

B.C.'s housing minister says formalized homeless encampments are "not an option" that B.C. Housing wants to pursue as they seek alternative shelter options for people being evicted from existing homeless camps in Prince George.

Earlier this week, City Coun. Cori Ramsay called on B.C. Housing to look into no-barrier housing, suggesting the possibility of formalizing homeless camps and providing services in places where the city's homeless have established a community.

"Knowing what we know, that barriers exist for shelters and that there will always be people who cannot actually go into a shelter, I think it in effect creates the need for things like encampments and tenting and camping outside," she said in an interview with CBC's Gloria Macarenko on Tuesday.

But Housing Minister David Eby said he's dealt with homeless camps in other communities in the province and doesn't believe they're safe options.

"They seem like a good immediate solution to some people," he told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk in an interview Thursday morning.

"I can assure you, having seen the experience of encampments, that that really is not an option that we want to pursue. We had fires, explosions, assaults. It did not work, and quite conclusively, in the cities where we had encampments."

He pointed to large homeless camps in Vancouver and Victoria that were shut down "with significant efforts."

Andrew Kurjata/CBC
Andrew Kurjata/CBC

Eby said B.C. Housing is working in collaboration with Prince George city council and Northern Health to come up with a solution that meets the needs of that particular community, which could be a low or no-barrier shelter, where people have access to harm reduction and medical treatment.

"Most communities have low- or no-barrier shelters," Eby said. "Prince George does not."

More than 120 supportive housing units are in various stages of construction in Prince George, but Eby doesn't expect those spaces to be open until next spring — which means the city's homeless population will have to survive another long, harsh winter in British Columbia's north.

"BC. Housing is in discussions with shelter operators in Northern Health right now about providing those services within existing shelters," Eby said.

"I don't have a timeline for you, but everyone is moving with urgency, given the ongoing challenge."

LISTEN | B.C. Housing Minister says homeless camps not a solution to Prince George's shelter problem:

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