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

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

Desmond (Casey) Peter serves salmon and hamburgers to the waiting crowd at the Cowichan Tribes’ celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Cowichan Tribes celebrates National Indigenous People’s Day

First Nation members gather for day of fun and remembrance

The Crofton Pool will reopen July 2. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Lifeguard services returning to Fuller Lake Park, Crofton Pool

Summer schedule starting after hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic

Sierra Acton, regional district director for Shawnigan Lake. (file photo)
New parkland in Shawnigan creating connections

Used to created parking for the popular Masons Beach Park

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Chris Wilkinson
Chris Wilkinson column: This could be the worst thing done to you during the pandemic

As a result, all of us will contend with more ‘scarcity’ thinking and mindset.

Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews on scene at a boat fire near the boat ramp at Long Lake on Sunday, June 20. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Boat burns up on Nanaimo’s Long Lake, man and child unhurt

Jet skiers attempt to put out fire by circling around to spray water on burning boat

Children walk with their parents to Sherwood Park Elementary in North Vancouver for the first day back to school on Sept. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Study reassures parents, teachers that COVID-19 infrequently shared at school

Federally funded study in Vancouver finds risk at school and in the community was identical

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday April 13, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Single-game sports betting about to become legal in Canada

Senate passes bill to take sports gambling away from overseas agencies

Point Roberts is part of the mainland United States but not physically connected to it, to reach the community by land one must pass through Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Closed Canadian border leaves Point Roberts’ only grocery store on verge of closure

‘We’re Americans but we’re not attached to America. It’s easy to forget we’re here,’ says owner Ali Hayton

The Somass Sawmill sits idle in early May 2021. While the kilns have been in use occasionally, and the lot has been used to store woodchips this spring, the mill has been curtailed since July 27, 2017. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni to expropriate Somass Sawmill from Western Forest Products

Sawmill has been ‘indefinitely’ curtailed since 2017

Robin Sanford and her fiance Simon Park were married in an impromptu ceremony at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on June 16. (Submitted photo)
Mom dies day after witnessing daughter’s hospital wedding in Abbotsford

Nurses help arrange impromptu ceremony in 3 hours for bride and groom

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. home owner grant won’t be altered, despite expert advice

Tax break for residences worth up to $1.6 million too popular

B.C. conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter said a black bear is believed to have killed local livestock. (THE NEWS/files)
Black bear believed to have killed miniature donkey in Maple Ridge

Trap set for predator that has been killing livestock

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki and Minister of Housing David Eby have been battling over the Victory Church shelter and BC Housing projects in the city. (File photos)
Penticton heads to court over homeless shelter as BC Housing audit begins

The city was not satisfied with the response from Minister David Eby regarding the ongoing situation

Most Read