The City of Langley began clearing a homeless camp near 208 Street and Fraser Highway Tuesday morning.
Work crews along with police and bylaw enforcement arrived with a large truck.
Copies of a bright yellow “notice to vacate” had earlier been distributed to the people living in the camp, telling them they were “required to vacate the property and remove your belongings no later than 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 or they will be disposed of by the City of Langley.”
Some in the camp had already left by the time the crews arrived, while others appeared to have been caught off-guard.
One resident of the camp said they had been led to believe it was not a “hard deadline” and they would have a few days to comply
Fraser Holland, homelessness program manager for Stepping Stone Community Service Society, confirmed that, saying it will take a few days to move the camp’s occupants to Gateway.
Tuesday’s activity was described as a ‘clean-up,’ and occupants were told they will be given more time to remove their tents and relocate (story continues after photo).
The move to evict follows an agreement by the City with B.C. Housing to create a temporary relief shelter with 30 places at the Gateway of Hope shelter.
The “Nicomekl Relief Shelter” will be available from Sept. 26 to March 31, with three meals a day, flexible curfews, and an offer of counseling (story continues after photo).
Several residents of the camp told the Times they have been under increasing pressure to relocate, some of it official and some of it amounting to vigilante tactics.
One resident, Cathy (who didn’t want her last name used) said someone set her tent on fire while she was sleeping in it about a week ago.
“The flames were just huge,” she said.
“I’ve never been so terrified in my life.”
She is convinced it was deliberate and has reported the incident to the police.
“We’ve been threatened by a few people in the neighborhood,” she said.
“I’m going to go down to Gateway.”
The resident of a neighboring tent, Shannon, said there have been other incidents of obvious vandalism that appear to be directed at forcing the residents to move.
“You’re already down,” she said.
“They have to kick you, too?”
Another camp resident, Darcy Hawkes confirmed there have been increasing run-ins with aggressive people.
“We get them coming in here because something has been stolen, a bike or whatever, and they think they’ll find it here,” Hawkes said.
He said there have been “at least three” cases where someone tried to use an accelerant to torch a homeless person’s tent
While the courts have ruled that homeless people have a right to camp in public places, that only applies when there is no alternative accommodation.