The City of Prince George is continuing to seek a court injunction to remove tent encampments from public property.
A tent city has been established at the end of Fifth avenue, dubbed Moccasin Flats by those living there, and unhoused persons have also been camping at a vacant lot on George Street near the Courthouse.
In a news release, the city said the encampments are “known to be dangerous and unhealthy” and is in the process to apply for a court injunction for the closure of the encampments but that is expected to take a few months.
When the city distributed notices of trespass to those living in the encampments in mid-June, the First Nations Leadership Council called on the city to end evictions until a workable plan to address homelessness is in place.
City council has also postponed its decision on the proposed Safe Streets Bylaw, which would allow city bylaw officers to issue $100 tickets for a number of "nuisance" behaviours like panhandling, open drug use and camping in public areas.
The bylaw will return to council for final reading on Aug. 30.
Local advocacy group Together We Stand said it believes these bylaw amendments increase chaos for Prince George citizens, Indigenous organizations, social services and businesses, and criminalizes the poor.
However, Mayor Lyn Hall noted the postponement means council has more time to meet with other groups, including provincial ministry staff and BC Housing, as well as learn from what other cities have done.
In its latest news release, the city said it is continuing to work with partners including the Province of B.C, Northern Health, BC Housing, and Indigenous organizations.
The city also listed some initiatives underway including:
- Supportive housing under construction on First Avenue at the former location of NR Motors. The first building phase will include 50 supportive housing units, which are expected to open in early 2022. The next phase of the project will begin soon after and include 100 units and health service supports on the site.
- The City opened the Community Safety Hub in April, at Second Avenue and George Street in order to address persistent and multi-faceted social issues such as homelessness, substance use, and mental illness. The Hub facilitates coordination among service agencies and organizations such as Northern Health, BC Housing, Downtown Prince George, the Prince George Native Friendship Centre, the city, and Prince George RCMP.
- BC Housing, Northern Health, and non-profit shelter operators are in the process of providing training to shelter staff and open overdose prevention spaces in the city’s shelters so that guests are able to safely use indoors, if they choose to. The overdose prevention spaces will only be available for shelter guests and will not be available for use by the public.
- In addition, these shelters have set up indoor cooling stations where people can come in off the streets during the day, hydrate, and cool down. Outreach workers are also connecting daily with people experiencing homelessness outdoors to inform them of the available community services and distribute water bottles.
More information on supportive housing projects in the city is available online through a joint BC Housing, Northern Heath and city website.
-with files from Arthur Williams, Prince George Citizen