This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative

Friday, Oct 30th, was the last day for Quinsam Road camp in Campbell River. There were only three residents remaining and all left peacefully when the RCMP and Ministry of Natural Resources went up to clean the site. 

A campsite at Quinsam road - courtesy a neighbourhood complaint to the Strathcona Regional District.
Cortes Currents: Some local material (dealt with more extensively in the article below); More than 50 minutes taken from two Vancouver Co-op Radio programs about the recent election and a Vancouver solution to homelessness.

Quinsam Road camp

“At one point, there were about twenty people living in four or five different camps,” said Cst. Maury Tyre

During the 5-6 months the property was occupied, the RCMP opened more than 50 case files: for theft; assault; fires.

Tyre added, “The biggest one was environmental issues, which is probably why the Ministry of Natural Resources got involved – plus it is their property.”

Adapted from Google maps by Roy L Hales

Nunns Creek Park

Some of the people from Quinsam Park are now camping in Nunn’s Creek Park, others have found different housing options.

In what some regard as the first step in establishing a right to housing in Canada, a 2015 BC Supreme Court ruling recognized that homeless people have the right to sleep in public space.  

Constable Tye explained, “That’s part of the reason you see tent cities in many cities. There is no allowance for permanent structures. In Campbell River, I believe they have said people have to have their tents taken down by 9:00 AM. The understanding being that it is still a public space and the rest of the public gets to use those areas. That’s the area that the city of Campbell River has allotted to people, if they do wish to camp.” 

Campbell River’s homeless community

There are believed to be about 100 people ‘without permanent housing’ in Campbell River, and much smaller numbers on Quadra and Cortes Islands.

In a previous interview, Sue Moen, the Salvation Army’s representative in the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness, said, “Homeless, according to the definition used by BC Housing, includes people who are precariously housed, or couch surfing, or aren’t paying rent directly to a landlord. They may be sharing a room, but their name isn’t on the rental agreement. They don’t know if they’ll have housing for the next thirty days … Also, there are a lot of people who are living in vehicles, RVs, and some even in campsites … If they are off the beaten track and do not connect with services, they sometimes do even consider themselves homeless.”  

She added, “There isn’t ‘typical.’ People become homeless for every reason that there is a person experiencing homelessness. It could be fleeing violence, family break-down, fire, flood or an expected loss of employment.”

Twenty are now temporarily housed in the former Rose Bowl restaurant and BC Housing has partnered with the city to build more permanent accomodation.

Quadra Island’s homeless community

Moen also mentioned, “one group, possibly two, [of homeless people] off the beaten track on Quadra.”

Cortes Island’s homeless community

Cortes Currents is aware of two year-round “house challenged” Cortes residents. Both are industrious. Prior to the pandemic, one was a frequent volunteer at community events. He camped in the woods and sold marijuana to raise money for necessities. The other would be more accurately defined as a “squatter,” who parks his camper on vacant lots. He was once a logger, and for a time sold firewood on Cortes.

Seasonal Homelessness

The real problem on Cortes is seasonal homelessness. Some of the most valued members of our community are tenants throughout the winter months, but need to move out during the tourist season. A significant number became tenants in other communities. Though it is becoming increasingly more difficult, others eventually purchased homes. For many, couch surfing or camping out during the summer months has become an annual event.

This appears to be a widespread problem.

Moen’s description of Campbell River’s homeless community includes people who “rent resort cabins, motel rooms or trailers during the winter and are evicted from their homes during the summer months to make way for vacation rentals.”

(As a Cortes Island landlord pointed out, it isn’t an ‘eviction’ when the tenant agreed to rent their unit for a specified period of time.)

Links of interest:

Top photo credit: The old Rod & Gun club on Quinsam Road, Campbell River – courtesy Google maps