VICTORIA — A group of homeless people who pitched tents in a B.C. provincial park near Victoria are expected to move into approved shelters and living spaces before a government-imposed deadline, Housing Minister Selina Robinson said Monday.
Robinson said people have started moving out of Goldstream Provincial Park and she was confident all members of the group about 20 campers will be in new living spaces by Tuesday. The park's campground has been closed since the homeless campers arrived Sept. 20.
"I'm convinced that people will want to leave," she said, adding that meetings with government support and outreach workers over the past week have addressed many of the needs of the campers, including housing.
"All of the people who've been at Goldstream for the last couple of weeks will be in places that are better for them," Robinson said. "Safer, warmer, drier, with supports."
Steps will also be taken by officials to reopen the park, she said.
A spokeswoman for the homeless people at Goldstream said the group plans to leave the park Tuesday morning, but not everybody will move into the housing options the government is providing.
Chrissy Brett said many members of the group want to live together and are considering moving together to other locations in the Victoria area, including Langford, Saanich and Oak Bay. The campers have previously stayed in those communities over the past year.
"Yes, we're all going to have a place to stay because we're going to stay together," she said. "That's what has kept people together this long is a sense of community and a sense of family."
The campers arrived at Goldstream park days after they were ousted from provincially owned land in nearby Saanich. Earlier last summer, Saanich used a court order to force the campers from another park that some had occupied since the spring.
On Thursday, the government said campers choosing to staying in the park past Tuesday would be evicted.
Some local residents have said they were concerned about potential damage to the park.
Heidi Hartman, BC Housing regional director, said the campers can be housed at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, which has 25 spaces, and at other facilities in the Victoria area that can accommodate groups, couples and others with care and support needs.
"We recognize that there's a diverse group out at the camp and we really want to make sure the folks are met with the supports they need," she said.
Hartman said a storage container was placed at the campground and people were helping the campers with their belongings, which are being transported to downtown Victoria.
Goldstream Park, located 16 kilometres northwest of Victoria, is in Premier John Horgan's Langford-Juan de Fuca riding.
The park is known for its huge 600-year-old Douglas fir trees and western red cedars.
The park's day use area has remained open.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press