Celestine Norris says she has nowhere to go if a tent community on Lewis Street is dismantled. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Another tent city sets up in Duncan

Campers set up on private property on Lewis Street

Celestine Norris said she feels safe living in her tent on a vacant lot on North Cowichan’s Lewis Street, located between two apartment buildings.

Norris said she has been living on the streets in the Cowichan Valley for more than a year, and recently pitched her tent in the Somenos Marsh area before someone set fire to it.

She said the close proximity to the community her new spot on Lewis Street allows her means that help is nearby if needed.

But the growing tent community on Lewis Street, which had four tents on it as of the morning of Nov. 3, has been drawing the attention of neighbours, the RCMP and the Municipality of North Cowichan.

The land is private property and North Cowichan officials say the owner can’t be found to address the issue of the trespassing campers, which makes efforts to remove the tents complicated.

“I’m not disrespecting anyone by being here, and I’m doing my best to keep the area clean where my tent is set up,” Norris said Friday morning outside her tent.

“It’s not that I can’t afford rent, there’s just nowhere to rent around here. The police and bylaw officers have been here, but I’m not causing any problems and I have nowhere to go. I have been kicked out of the Warmland shelter even though I wasn’t doing drugs.”

The Warmland House shelter is nearby on Lewis Street and manager Dave Street said the facility has beds for those that require them, provided that the clients follow the rules, including that there be no drugs or alcohol on the premises.

“Our doors are open and everyone is welcome here, as long as they are prepared to follow the rules,” Street said.

With the lack of affordable housing in the Valley, along with the ongoing opioid crisis, tent cities have been springing up in a number of local places over the past year.

They include the one in Charles Hoey Park last spring that had to be taken down by police and Duncan bylaw officers after the campers defied a ruling from the Supreme Court of B.C. that ordered the removal of the tents.

FOR RELATED STORY, CLICK HERE

But the fact that the lot on Lewis Street is privately owned is raising legal issues around having the authorities move in to take down the tents.

Nelda Richardson, North Cowichan’s manager of building and compliance, said bylaw and RCMP officers have been visiting the site daily since the tents first set up there.

But she said that at this point, the municipality is only monitoring the situation.

“It’s challenging for us because it’s private property and we can’t locate the owner,” she said.

“If we could get in touch with the owner, we could work towards fencing the property or find some other solution to keep the campers out. But we don’t have the jurisdiction to do anything ourselves and we have no tools at this time to deal with this in our bylaws.”

Sgt. Chris Swain, a spokesman for the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, said the police have responded to a number of complaints from the public and the municipality in regards to the site.

But he also acknowledged the fact that the land is private property complicates the issue.

“There’s also the fact that issues around homelessness are impacting not just us, but many communities on the Island and the mainland,” he said.

“We’re doing our best to work with all stakeholders to try to find a solution to this.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

The circus is coming back to Duncan; get free kids tickets from the Citizen

This is a real, old fashioned circus, in a big tent, featuring high wire acts, clowns, and more

New ‘Patio Portal’ planned for Cowichan Bay

Project will improve public access to the Cowichan Bay waterfront

What you said: Pay for use water a controversial topic

Public works crews have been busy for the last four years installing water meters

Pair of 11-year-old Cowichan highland dancers heading to Virginia for competition

Amelia Marsh and Maya Sundstrom are excited about the possibilities

VIDEO: ‘Thrones,’ ‘Fleabag’ top Emmys

Billy Porter makes history as first openly gay black man to win best drama-series acting Emmy

B.C. man accused of threatening sex worker gave statement of own free will: Justice

Defence wanted Vernon’s Curtis Sagmoen’s video interview with police deemed inadmissible

GRAPHIC: Dead cat found with string around its neck in Kelowna alleyway

City crews have been contacted and are on the way to pick up the dead feline.

Firefighters may be needed for paramedic apartment access, experts say

Better coordination recommended in urban B.C. 9-1-1 calls

B.C. police chief to speak to Liberal candidate after second ad appears featuring photo of officer

Jati Sidhu had said an ad with the same photo posted last Friday was ‘not appropriate’

Tour de Rock ride kicks off in the North Island

I would ride all day in the rain if it means raising money to help these kids”

Three B.C. moms to launch CBD-infused water

Three friends say benefits may include anxiety relief, pain management

B.C. students empowered to ‘shift the vote’ this election

B.C. Federation of Students launches ‘Our Time is Now’ campaign

MEC and LUSH stores to close on Friday for global climate strikes

Retailers will be closed on Sept. 27 so that staff can march in demonstrations

Most Read