BC Housing has confirmed it moved 14 people from the Lower Patricia encampment into supportive homes indoors this week, after the City of Prince George began clearing items from the encampment.
The organization said it has moved 24 people in total from the encampment into supportive housing at the Knights Inn, which was opened two weeks ago.
“Since then, outreach workers have been at the encampment daily to ensure people sheltering outside are aware that shelter beds are available. The majority of the remaining campers at the Lower Patricia encampment chose to move to the Knights Inn,” said B.C. Housing in a statement.
“Street homelessness and encampments in Prince George are an urgent issue that we are working with our non-profit partners to address, particularly as temperatures in the area continue to drop.”
B.C. Housing also states that it was not involved with any machinery or removal of items from the camp.
Yesterday (Nov. 17) the City of Prince George brought in machinery and cleared out structures at the Lower Patricia encampment which is known as Moccasin Flats.
A B.C. Supreme Court ruling determined that an encampment on George Street could be removed, but the Lower Patricia encampment had to remain until suitable housing is available.
In statements provided to the court in October, the RCMP estimated the populations of both encampments to be around 80 with the majority living in the Lower Patricia encampment.
A lawyer with the B.C. First Nations Justice Council, Darlene Kavka, who represented the encampment residents in the recent court case and visited the encampment yesterday when the city began working to remove structures, has raised concerns.
Kavka said some of the people she spoke to were not offered housing and were seen rummaging through the piles of debris.
“I don't think that people gave any consent to have the balance of their belongings bulldozed and put in piles and that's what they've done.”
The City of Prince George asserts it is fully adhering to the court ruling on the encampment and is “removing abandoned structures, refuse, and debris from civic property to reduce risks such as fire hazards.”
The city said each encampment occupant who was relocated, “confirmed with outreach staff their wish to no longer live in the structure and that they understood it and anything they left behind would be removed by the City following their departure.”
The Prince George Citizen has attempted to interview impacted residents of the encampment but so far none have consented to go on record.